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Injury rates among recycling workers are twice national average: report

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Recycling workers

Photo: GAIA

Berkeley, CA – Recycling industry employees face “unnecessarily hazardous” conditions on the job, but those conditions can be improved, according to a report released June 23.

The report was issued by anti-incinerator group GAIA, the Partnership for Working Families and the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health. It states that between 2011 and 2013, 17 workers were killed on the job at recycling facilities, and recycling workers experienced injury rates more than double the national average. Workers face hazards that include repetitive motion, extreme heat and cold, heavy machinery, and moving vehicles.

Further, many recycling facilities rely on temporary workers, who statistics show have a greater risk of on-the-job injuries than full-time staff.

The report authors recommended several measures to improve safety for workers at recycling facilities, including:

  • City governments should require recycling companies to have comprehensive worker safety programs.
  • The recycling industry should stop using temporary workers.
  • Community education programs on separating waste should be better communicated.

“Occupational injuries and fatalities are preventable,” the report states. “An incumbent workforce working at a facility with a comprehensive safety program is best equipped to tackle the challenges presented by contaminants in the recycling stream, and proactive education of the public supports safer conditions.”