Thursday, June 25, 2015

Report: Recycling Workers Exposed to Safety Hazards & High Injury Rates

© Prokhorov
A new study, by environmental, occupational safety and community benefits experts in collaboration with researchers at the University of Illinois School of Public Health, indicates that recycling workers are more than twice as likely to be injured on the job.

Safe & Sustainable Recycling: Protecting Workers who Protect the Planet, finds that recycling work is unnecessarily hazardous to workers’ safety and health. Seventeen recycling workers died on the job between 2011-2013 as a result of unsafe working conditions including exposure to hazardous objects on the sort line (like used needles, toxic chemicals, broken glass and animal carcasses) and working around heavy machinery. Additionally, many recycling companies rely heavily on temporary workers, who are less likely to be proper trained or informed of their legal right to a safe and healthy workplace.

To address these issues and ensure safety and health compliance across the industry, the authors of this study recommend using municipal best practices and prohibiting the use of temporary employees, who are at the greatest risk of injury on the job.

Cities have the power to create safer jobs by contracting solely with responsible recycling companies that maintain rigorous health and safety programs and educating communities about correct separation of recyclable materials.

The report notes that unionized workers, with negotiated contracts in place enjoy more effective enforcement of legally mandated health and safety protections and also have the ability to bargain for additional safeguards to improve working conditions.