Recycling may be good for the environment. However, a new report released June 23 shows that the safety of workers in the recycling industry may be at risk. Oklahoma residents who work in recycling might benefit from knowing the risks they are exposed to and ideas on what can be done to increase worker safety in their industry.
According to the report “Safe and Sustainable Recycling: Protecting Workers Who Protect the Environment,” the recycling industry has a high rate of injuries and fatalities due to unsafe working conditions and exposure to hazardous materials such as dirty needles, broken glass and animal carcasses. Additionally, the industry tends to rely on temporary workers. These workers might not be knowledgeable about the safe conditions they are legally entitled to and have generally less work protection available.
Workplace safety is important, particularly when workers are around dangerous, heavy machinery. Recently, a Florida recycling worker was crushed to death in a cardboard compactor. Another recycling worker recalled how workers sometimes get injured from needles they find in the sorting line.
The report, which was conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois School of Public Health, has suggestions on what can be done to improve the working conditions and safety of recycling workers. Since many cities have adopted ways to continue recycling while providing safe conditions for workers, the report suggests that all cities adopt measures to do the same. Recommendations include educating workers about workplace safety and using proven injury prevention methods. The report also advises ending the use of temporary workers, educating the community about the correct ways to separate waste and requiring governments to evaluate recycling companies for their safety records and conditions.