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Recycling workers face twice the risk of injury than the average

Going green is a widely acknowledged as a good thing. It doesn't make much sense to continue generating tons of waste every day that will pile up for generations to come.

Houston is no shirker when it comes to this subject. It could be argued that the city is as committed to sustainability and recycling as any in the country. Not only does the city have an entire website dedicated to the effort, but officials are not shy about touting how going green creates jobs.

Few would likely disagree with the claim. But a new study does raise some questions about whether government and industry leaders are doing all they can to ensure that those who do this important work are safe on the job. The research out of the University of Illinois concludes working in the recycling industry is unnecessarily hazardous and it offers some recommendations for making improvements.

Key findings of the study include that the workers are often exposed to unsafe conditions involving heavy machinery. In addition, workers on sorting lines exposes workers to dangers such as used hypodermic needles, hazardous chemicals and other biohazards.

Another issue that researchers discovered was that too many workers in the field are temporary. They lack basic training about health and safety on the job and what their legal rights are if they do get hurt.

As a result of these shortcomings, researchers found that 17 workers in recycling facilities across the country were killed at work between 2011 and 2013. They also determined that recycling workers face double the risk of being injured on the job than the average worker.

Recommendations include beefing up worker education and accident prevention efforts and ending the use of temporary workers. But experts also suggest that cities need to be more diligent in educating citizens about safe waste recycling and holding recycling companies accountable for worker safety.

Source: EHS Today, "New Report: U.S. Recycling Workers Exposed to Safety Hazards and High Injury Rates," Sandy Smith, June 23, 2015

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