Recycling workers in Minnesota work in a dangerous industry, according to a study that was published on June 23 by University of Illinois School of Public Health researchers and other experts. The study found that recycling workers are more than two times more likely to sustain injuries at work than people in other occupations.
Between 2011 and 2013, there were 17 recycling workers killed on the job in the United States. Researchers say that the high numbers of injuries and fatalities in recycling work is due to unsafe conditions near heavy machinery and exposure to hazards during sorting tasks. Some of the hazardous items that recycling workers are exposed to on the job include toxic chemicals, hypodermic needles and animal carcasses. One former recycling worker said that the recycling bins she sorted often contained needles and broken glass, and her coworkers were sometimes punctured.
Temporary workers often perform much of the ‘unnecessarily hazardous” work that researchers found takes place at recycling plants. These workers often have fewer legal protections than permanent workers and are less informed about their legal rights. The authors of the study advised the recycling industry to stop using temporary workers. City governments were also advised to enforce worker safety programs at recycling plants.
When a workplace accident takes place at a recycling center, the injured victim can face high medical bills and may lose days, weeks or months of income as a result. For a lot of families, this loss of income can be devastating. A lawyer may be able to help a worker who has been injured on the job to recover a portion of the lost wages and reimbursement for medical expenses through the filing of a workers’ compensation claim.