If you work in recycling, you’re exposed to many kinds of items every day. Plastics, foods, and other items come through your facility. You may touch them or be exposed to fumes or dusts, all of which could lead to workplace illnesses or injuries.
In the United States, there are around 21,000 workers who process recycled goods after collection. Sorting is necessary, since machines aren’t 100 percent accurate. Workers pull items off the belt that could be hazardous or non-recyclable in nature.
Hand-sorting is necessary, but this can be dangerous. Uncapped needles, sharp objects, working with trash compactors, and being exposed to this environment can be deadly.
Recycling workers are hurt more often than others. These injuries aren’t minor, either. According to a report, the rate of nonfatal injuries for recycling facility workers was 8.5 per 100 workers, while the rate for all industries is only 3.5 out of 100.
What are some of the things that led to injuries? Some workers were trapped in or crushed by machinery at the facility. Others were not informed about the importance of vaccines when working in this environment, leading to the spread of disease. Some workers have to open bags on a conveyor belt without knowing what’s inside, and that can expose them to toxic hazards, live animals, or other safety concerns.
Work shouldn’t be this dangerous. It’s important that you speak up if your employer hasn’t provided you with the right safety equipment or education. Recognizing hazards in the workplace is key to helping you overcome the risk of injury or death.
Source: FairWarning.org, “Sustainable and Safe Recycling: Protecting Workers Who Protect the Planet,” accessed April 27, 2016