Recycling has long been acknowledged as a way to conserve our Earth’s natural resources and help keep the environment healthy. Putting plastics, papers, and cardboard into the recycling container gives many the feelings that they are doing their part. Many, however, don’t know where their recycled goods go after they are hauled away and the dangerous working conditions that recycling centers often have.
A Dirty and Dangerous Process
Recycling isn’t easy or pretty. The process of recycling involves heavy machinery such as semi trucks, forklifts, grinders, shredders, and cranes and often requires employees to handle the majority of the materials that come through.
It isn’t just bottles and papers being broken down either. Large items like cars are often melted back into metal scraps to be used again. Breaking down cars is an extremely risky process as one man’s family recently discovered.
Their family member was working at a local recycling center. Other employees around him were using a crane to push the cars onto a spike so that leftover gasoline could be drained into a trough. Once the gasoline was removed, the crane would move the car to a new location – dripping gasoline the entire way.
The worker was assigned to use a loader to scrap extra metal pieces out of the way. As he was scraping, the gasoline that had been dripping ignited, engulfing him in flames. Sadly, he did not survive.
This man isn’t alone. Every day, recycling center workers are injured due to:
The materials being recycled aren’t always packaged appropriately or in one piece. Glass, metal, and plastic can all cause deep lacerations. Often, these materials are also very dirty which can lead to a serious infection in the cut.
Lack of instruction and training, simple mistakes, and defects in heavy machinery can lead to serious accidents, leaving workers with crush injuries, amputations, spinal injuries, and traumatic brain injury.
Many recycled materials are first crushed and then melted down. If a worker’s skin comes into contact with either the melted substance or the tools creating the necessary heat, second, third, and sometimes even fourth-degree burns may occur. Burns take weeks, months, and sometimes years to heal fully and often the victim experiences setbacks due to infection.
Carcinogens and other toxins can easily impact a worker’s eyes, skin, and lungs.
Materials are often loosely piled in large mounds, which, if disturbed, can cause a small avalanche or send a few pieces plummeting to the ground below.
What Can Injured Recycling Workers Do?
Whenever someone is injured on the job they have the option of filing a workers’ compensation claim. Workers’ compensation insurance can provide injured employees with payments for their medical expenses, as well as a fraction of their lost wages. Unfortunately, a large percentage of workers’ comp claims are denied and victims frequently find that they need to consult an attorney in order to get what they need.
Additionally, in many cases, it may be possible to file a third-party personal injury lawsuit. While filing a workers’ comp claim prevents the injured employee from suing their employer, it does not prevent them from filing a lawsuit against a third party whose negligence resulted in their injuries.
For example, if someone is injured in an accident involving a crane and an investigation reveals that the crane has a defect, it may be possible to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the crane and the manufacturer of the defective part. By doing so, the injured employee can obtain additional compensation for any medical expenses not covered by the workers’ comp, lost earnings, physical pain and suffering, and, in some cases, emotional trauma.