BART train fogger featured in National Geographic Magazine


BART train fogger featured in National Geographic Magazine

Sterling Johnson National Geographic horizontal shotIn the National Geographic photo, Sterling Johnson may look like a protagonist from a dystopian novel, as he is shown decked out in a hazmat bodysuit with his face covered completely by his goggles and mask.

But Johnson, a Utility Worker at Concord Maintenance Yard, maintained a ho-hum attitude of his photoshoot for the globally renowned magazine.

“Of course I felt excited but like the rest of the country, it comes with some anxiety because of how real COVID is,” said Johnson. “I feel like I’m making a change, I’m making a difference.”

Johnson is one of many BART utility workers who don Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and disinfect all trains in service using an electrostatic fogger. As part of BART’s 15-Step Plan to welcome riders back to the system, BART disinfects its fleet after service every night.

Utility workers who fog the trains also clean the trains so the fleet is ready to roll out for service in the early morning. Fogging the trains have added extra but a necessary workload to their shift, says Johnson.

Sterling Johnson National Geographic vertical shot

Before every fogging shift, Johnson needs to properly wear his PPE which include a white suit, goggles, gloves and boots. He then mixes a non-hazardous disinfection tablet with water inside the backpack to create the solution and turns on the ionizer button to activate the spray.

Inside the train car, Johnson fogs the train with disinfectants walking backwards and aiming the spray gun near the top handrails in an oval movement and ceilings so the spray can fall to the seats, floor and other touchpoints.

While the backpack is quite light, the gun gets heavier with more spray dispensing during the fogging, says Johnson. With months of experience fogging the trains, Johnson says he’s gotten much faster and more efficient.

Johnson acknowledged that the job can scare him and his colleagues, many of whom live with large families at home, including babies and elderly parents. But he says his work is important in keeping the public safe during the pandemic and he takes pride in it.

“I can speak firsthand for us at Concord Yard that we take care of elderly people and children, and we have to fight to bring that home,” Johnson said. “But this is what we signed up for. We are putting ourselves at risk to serve the public, and we have not forgotten our work is public service.”