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Improving worker safety in the recycling industry


Improving worker safety in the recycling industry

South Carolina residents may be surprised to learn just how dangerous recycling and waste management work can be. The Bureau of Labor Statistics ranks refuse collection among the 10 most dangerous civilian jobs in America, and more than 5 percent of the nation’s recycling and waste management workers are injured in job-related accidents or become sick after being exposed to toxic substances in the workplace every year. However, the 27 fatalities recorded in the sector during 2014 were the lowest since 2010, and the National Waste & Recycling Association conducted training and education seminars at various locations around the country between Jan. 25 and Jan. 29 to further improve worker safety.

Workers performing waste collection duties have the highest fatality rates, but those who work in metal recovery facilities or at landfills have also been killed in workplace accidents. Reducing worker injuries in the recycling and waste management industryis a primary goal of the NWRA, and the organization provides employers in the field with regular updates to safety guidelines and protocols in addition to conducting seminars and training sessions.

Recent NWRA safety efforts include a set of guidelines released on Jan. 19 that detail how cameras with proximity sensors can be placed at recycling and waste management facilities to reduce accidents. These guidelines came a month after the organization released a list of best practices for transfer station and landfill operators. These practices covered matters such improving the traffic flow at landfills and metal recovery facilities, encouraging communication between workers and eliminating distractions caused by mobile phones.

Most South Carolina employers are required to carry workers’ compensation coverage to protect their employees who are injured on the job, but many are concerned about rising insurance premiums and as a result sometimes contest these claims. Attorneys may advocate on behalf of injured workers when their employers contend that they were not hurt while at work or are misrepresenting the nature or severity of their injuries.