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The Absolute Worst Working Environment? 1716

Posted by timothy
from the no-feet-we-were-too-poor dept.
goodEvans writes "As I write this, there is a window open behind me with a small jet engine outside. This is supplying vast amounts of compressed air to the aircraft undergoing heavy maintenance in the hangar right outside my door. There is a 6-inch diameter air hose going through the office and out the door. All this requires that I sit at my desk wearing a body warmer to keep out the cold, and both ear defenders AND ear plugs to keep out the noise! And this will go on for half a day once a week! What are the worst conditions you have ever had to work under?" Can you top that? (If top is the word ...)
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The Absolute Worst Working Environment?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @01:57PM (#8044856)
    Try working 8 hours with crazy diarrhea and no bathrooms.

    People with IBS know what I mean...
  • Shit- (Score:5, Informative)

    by IWantMoreSpamPlease (571972) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @01:58PM (#8044874) Homepage Journal
    I used to be an OSHA/EPA-type inspector. I've seen shit that will melt your eyes.

    How about inspecting a toxic waste dump, recently uncovered in a marina, left over from the Vietnam era days, drums and drums of Agent Orange.

    Asbestos factory plants shut down an abandoned, with asbestos piles higher than most apartment complexes.

    Lead reclaimation factories that never should have gotten permits to begin with.

    Frat-boy dorm rooms (I had to wear a gas mask in one section, it was so bad)

    Public housing projects where aborted fetuses are hidden under stair cases, along with use diapers from the other kids.

    You got nothing on what I have seen...
  • by cenonce (597067) <anthony_t@mac.cGINSBERGom minus poet> on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @02:06PM (#8045045)
    IAAL, and this is certainly not my area of expertise, but requiring you to wear ear plugs for 4 hours a day under those conditions sounds like an OSHA violation [osha.gov].

    -A
  • by nharmon (97591) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @02:09PM (#8045085) Homepage
    Many of us understand and some of us were even there at one time. There is a fate worse than having a 'crummy job'.

    Stay safe.
  • by elbarsal (232181) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @02:10PM (#8045103)
    Try a coke processing plant ( the black coal stuff, not the drink ) or a casting plant that uses graphite as a release agent.. Both will cause black lung, among other things...


    I have to second that one... having done controls work in a foundary and in iron making (blast furnace) areas, I've seen nasty conditions. I've visited cokemaking as well - truly a bad environment.

    My personal worst is either the foundary, with the black foundary sand / dust getting all over (and in) everything - nothing like having to wash your hands after typing anything on your laptop, or a slag granulator at a blast furnace - there was a fire that burned up half the plant, there was a flood of 12 feet of water, and there were the conditions in the casthouse - nothing like a stream of molten slag being quenched by 10,000 gpm of water, generating a ton of steam and a nice strong H2SO4 steam.

    It's not a challenging working environment until you add the requirement of hard hat, safety boots, ear plugs, a sulphur removing respirator, and fireproof clothing. And this is controls work!
  • Cables (Score:2, Informative)

    by orange_6 (320700) <{jtgalt} {at} {gmail.com}> on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @02:13PM (#8045155) Homepage Journal
    Pulling a single 150' BNC cable out from under 200+ CAT5 wires which were all under a 9" drop floor with carpet glued at random intervals.

    1) Remove carpet - get gluey
    2) Attempt to locate BNC - flashlight, upside down for quite a while
    3) Locate BNC - pull correct carpet/floor
    4) Pull BNC while upside down maneuvering around desks.
    5) Repeat, but do not damage the BNC cable...we may need it someday.

    Through that job I foudn out that my entire body can fit under a drop floor...and that people loose shoes in the damnedest places.

  • by Skater (41976) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @02:21PM (#8045315) Homepage Journal

    Where I work, we had a stray bullet come through a window and pass through where someone would've been sitting, had she/he not gone to lunch early that day.

    Two people were stabbed to death right across the street. Two 70-year-old women, in a flower shop, during a robbery.

    Our buildings are filled with asbestos. We can't drink the water due to bacteria in the pipes. The HVAC is constantly messed up: my boss' office is about 58 degrees F (14C) right now, but a couple weeks ago they had to send us home because it was 90+F (32C). Occasionally, we've been stuck without water for flushing toilets and washing hands.

    One time, a sewage backup came out of one of our (already unusable) water fountains.

    Ceiling tiles have collapsed on people's desks or right in front of some people from the GSA (Government Service Agency - they own the buildings) here to tour the building. Leaking pipes are the norm.

    One time they told us to open the windows to encourage ventilation due to microbes in the air. Then they told us not to open the windows due to lead paint being used on the windows.

    Here's an article [washingtonpost.com] from 2000 summarizing the problems.

    These are the conditions US Census Bureau employees have to work in. Many, many people leave because of the problems.

    --RJ

  • Re:Shit- (Score:3, Informative)

    by IWantMoreSpamPlease (571972) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @02:32PM (#8045518) Homepage Journal
    Certified Industrial Hygienist

    Frat dorms were to undergo a renovation, a building inspection for potential hazards was required before the city would grant permits.
  • nope (Score:2, Informative)

    by polished look 2 (662705) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @02:32PM (#8045528) Journal

    A co-worker tried to blow the whistle on our supervisor - the main conduit through which the organization was embezzling money - and our supervisor and his co-horts harassed him in a similar manner as they later did me. Thus, they truly were embezzling money (there is no question about that - they got in trouble for a similar thing about twelve years before my working there) and used their diagnosis as a method to drive me away from the company.

    I can tell the difference between a voice that someone says and one that comes out of the sky, etc. and after this do you really think I'd ever take a med from a shrink again? No way.

  • sharks (Score:2, Informative)

    by black_widow (41044) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @02:34PM (#8045546) Homepage
    I once had a log ("sharks" as a chinese ramper called them, with the greatest accent 'shawks!') that hit my arm on the way out. I had a nice big chunk stuck in my watch band.

    I have seen at least 2 people take some bad stuff (cargo DC8 and a DL767) directly to the face/mouth.

  • OSHA (Score:3, Informative)

    by sxpert (139117) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @02:34PM (#8045558)
    guess the current working conditions are illegal under OSHA regulations...
  • Re:Women (Score:3, Informative)

    by glenebob (414078) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @02:47PM (#8045743)
    Jet engines may have periods and sagging breasts (I doubt it but who really knows?), but at least they don't come to work and spend 6 hours a day telling the entire office about it (with the remaining two hours split between lunch and trying to look actually busy).

    *shudder*

    Thankyou slashdot, for bringing back up those well suppressed memories!
  • Re:House Calls (Score:4, Informative)

    by ek_adam (442283) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @02:59PM (#8045951) Homepage

    Worth it and appreciated. I'm glad you do the work you do.

  • Re:House Calls (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @03:07PM (#8046053)
    I am an EMT in PA, we have to deal with the '300 Club' (those whose weight goes above 300 lbs) who go to the top floor of their house for those calls. Something about being closer to God... Then on the way down, you struggle to keep from dropping the patient because your foot went through the floor because it was rotten.. And it's perfectly normal to go get something to eat after a call.
  • oh aye? (Score:5, Informative)

    by h4rm0ny (722443) * on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @03:15PM (#8046146) Journal
    You Python-quoting bastards!

    I did work in a pit in yorkshire - just outside Hull. The working day consisted of getting up at 5:30am, setting off at 5:50 arriving at the charcoal pits about 6:30 - think of giant power station chimmneys, half-height with the tops blocked off. We'd get changed into our disposable overalls and face-mask, enter a bunker which was lit by giant and very very hot floodlights. A big truck would be backed-up against the doors and we'd start unloading it. This meant climb up, grab a sack of charcoal, carry it back into the bunker, split it with your knife and tip it out. Go back again. Split it, tip it, go back again. Split it, tip it, go back again, etc. We did three bunkers a day, four hours a bunker. We'd take a break between each one - a fourteen hour day, not counting travel. We got 4 quid an hour.

    You'd have a shower when you got back, but it'd take a hour to get properly clean, and even then you'd still cough up black stuff for the rest of the night. And my god, did your back ache!

    And you try and tell someone how lucky they are to be working at a computer, and they just don't believe you!
  • Re:Looxury! (Score:3, Informative)

    by grahamlee (522375) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `geelmai'> on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @03:28PM (#8046324) Homepage Journal

    Hey! You pinched that from me! [macslash.org] you insensitive clod.

  • by crazy-bones (599089) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @03:56PM (#8046806)
    I remember working for a company in Upstate NY that didn't give me much of a job descriptioin.
    One day my job description ivolved finding and replaceing the starter on a drill rig. I found the rig in a swamp. (warning... run-on rant)I spent 2 hrs on my back in the swamp before I found out that the starter they gave me went to the engine that was in it before they replaced the engine with an older one which wasn't compatible.

    I remember my clothes freezing to a garage floor once replacing an alternator on a honda civic, but it must have been a different job I had(nevermind that wasn't job related. It was work just not somthing that I got paid for).

    On a different day I drove a company vehicle up to a different site where a few of the other workers got there vehicle stuck. After a long day of being a drillers assistant out in a field the other workers left in my vehicle expecting that I got theres unstuck(ie. great coworkers).

    A few days later I was in a 2 story diameter by 200 yard rotating kiln used for making concrete. It was stopped for inspection due to a malfunction. But it was still cooling at 90 oC. By the end of the day I was finding cured concrete in my nose.

    The list goes on and on with similar yet less spectacular stories of that summer job.
  • by Reziac (43301) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @03:57PM (#8046821) Homepage Journal
    Actually, bone meal is not readily distinguishable by sight or odor from ordinary unbleached flour, and by taste only because it's slightly chalky. It's processed at high temps (450F), as is meat meal (which looks and smells for all the world like ground-up cat shit). Both have rigid commercial definitions. (Check it out via Feedstuffs Analysis -- any agricultural university library should have the reference issue, or cough up $40 for one at feedstuffs.com)

    Sounds like you were wading thru unprocessed slaughterhouse scrap, which will sorta self-render if left in the sun long enough. Yicch!!

    BTW you can't use horns, hide, hooves, and other such waste for dog food; used as a main protein source, it eventually gives the dogs kidney failure.

  • Re:Whatever (Score:3, Informative)

    by Burdell (228580) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @04:03PM (#8046897)
    Dad worked at MSFC in a trailer for a couple of years while they "renovated" 4487. Almost every computer got zapped because the network cables were just laid on the ground between trailers; the water pipes were the same way and froze regularly during the winter. Dad's trailer was right on the end and got hit by a Space Camp tour bus one day. Someone walked out the door of the trailer next to his one day, and the wooden steps/platform just peeled away and collapsed to the ground.

    Before they even moved anyone back in to 4487, the roof and windows were leaking. They never really got it fixed before he had to move to another building.

    The shuttle orbiters are in grand shape, compared to many of NASA's other work environments.

  • by michael_cain (66650) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @04:11PM (#8047030) Journal

    I'm assuming this is in the US...

    Hearing-protection or not, this arrangement almost certainly violates one more workplace safety regulations at the state or federal level, or both. Were you threatened with any kind of punishment (eg, firing) if you didn't work under these conditions? Are you the only person affected? Did you make any efforts to get your employer to make reasonable accommodations, like temporary relocation of your office? Since it's only one four-hour block per week, did you offer to work a non-standard schedule instead of working in the office during that time? If you had a problem with your boss, and it's a company of any size, did you talk to your HR representative? Larger companies almost always have people in HR who are well aware of work-safety requirements, and whose job is to keep ignorant or asshole supervisors from getting the company crosswise with the law.

  • by Wilk4 (632760) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @04:15PM (#8047088) Homepage
    these (slashdotted earlier) have got to be pretty bad on any scale, not just in science.
    Popular Science Mag: The Worst Jobs In Science [popsci.com]
    (slashdot reference [slashdot.org])
  • by tim_mathews (585933) <tmathews04@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @05:03PM (#8047723)
    mmmm .... fiberglass

    The best way to stop the itching from 'glass is to wash in acetone. MEK works well to, but that burns. And don't use toluene unless you enjoy being cancer man.

    I worked a summer in a marina doing all kinds of nifty boat repairs. Which was basically lots of chemical burns and exposure to cancer causing chemicals. The best part was climbing masts though, except when you're standing in the bos'un's chair 60' off the deck replacing a VHF antenna and someone decides to jump from the dock to the boat. Yeah, it may only move a little bit down there, but extend that up 60' feet and suddenly you're moving though a 6' arc. grrrr....

  • by Tofino (628530) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @05:51PM (#8048449)
    Congratulations, you were a tape monkey. Welcome to the club. And interfaces like the one you describe weren't -- and scarily enough, aren't -- uncommon at all.
  • Joi Internet (Score:3, Informative)

    by the unbeliever (201915) <chris+slashdot@@@atlgeek...com> on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @06:15PM (#8048717) Homepage
    I'm not afraid to name names here. Joi Internet (aka Hawk Communications), is the IT equivalent of a sweatshop.

    They pay $2-3 less than the market value for so-called "tier 2" representatives, that take all incoming sales/service/support calls.

    There are no cubicles, you're forced to sit at a desk with another person, two pc's on the desk, two chairs crammed next to each other, with all the cables strung across the floor waiting for you to trip over them. The AC/Heating cuts off at 10pm nightly, and doesn't come on at all on weekends.

    The doors are keylocked to get in *or* out, and most access cards stop working at 2am (locking the overnight people in the call center until 8am, preventing bathroom breaks)

    The half hour of breaktime per day is all you get, and they make you split it up into two 15 minute breaks, which doesn't give you time to run out and get food. They make you pay $50/month for parking, or $3.50/day to take mass transit round trip.

    They promise benefits (crap medical) 90 days after hire, but rarely follow through, even when harrassed.

    Some of the desks are hand made from 2x4's and countertop (such as you'd buy at home depot), and are quite splintery/rickety.

    The so-called 'kb' is Chasm's help desk page that was wget'd, then edited out to remove all of his logos.

    No one at the company except the president and vp, and a few select others, has any power to cancel accounts. Customers must email, fax, or write a letter to cancel, they cannot do so over the phone. Billing issues are always sent to the black void of billing@domain, and are mostly ignored until the user contacts the bbb.

    Server outages are common, usually happening nightly, with no explainable cause, and no communication from the network admins as to when they expect it to be fixed.

    They provide nothing other than a water cooler and instant coffee (no cream/sugar) for refreshment. There is also no eating at the desks, so you have to blow your breaktime to eat in the closet of a breakroom.

    They don't offer direct deposit, and the day you get your checks is questionable, as is the amount you're going to get paid (they use an electric time clock, but don't round up or down to a quarter, they get you down to the minute), and the checks are mailed from Israel, so if you expect to come in on the first and get paid, you may be out of luck.

God is real, unless declared integer.

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