• FA-122378 © Technisches Museum Wien, Photo: Peter Sedlaczek
Collection Area
Everyday Life
Environmental Engineering
Everyday Life - directions for use

Sewage worker boots, around 1985

Special clothing and equipment is indispensible for underground jobs relating to the disposal of urban wastewater. One utensil in particular is crucial for sewage workers: their boots.

The pair of boots exhibited in the Technisches Museum Wien (Vienna Technical Museum) was used in Vienna in the mid-1980s. However, their appearance and function have remained unchanged for decades and to this day. The waterproof boots are made of leather and have a non-slip sole, as well as a strap with which they can be pulled up over the knee to the thigh. They can be worn when working in either dry areas or high water levels. The boots are regularly inset with seal blubber to keep them watertight.

It is the sewage workers’ task to control the condition of the sewers. Any accumulations need to be dissolved, in order that wastewater and excrements can be drained unhindered. Deposits and compact materials are collected and then lifted to the surface. Besides boots, this also requires warm clothing, a helmet and headlamp, as well as a shovel, bucket and the so-called “Schimmel” (a specially formed shovel which optimally adjusts itself to the width of the sewage tunnel). The workers usually work in groups of two or four and are not rarely seen bent over, as many sewage tunnels are only a meter high.

Since the 1830s, the Viennese sewage network has been successively expanded. Today it is around 2,400 kilometres long. A technical infrastructure, through which 220 million cubic metres of wastewater flow every year and which essentially determines whether or not the city functions. Despite the accelerated employment of machines (“super suckers”), there is still a great deal of manual labour for the around 380 sewage workers who are employed on behalf of the city of Vienna. Around 15 tonnes of material is hauled from underground to daylight every day.

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