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New safety report exposes hazards of recycling industry

People in Minnesota expect recycling centers to support good resource management, but they may be surprised by the workplace hazards associated with the industry. A recent study has found that many centers present many unnecessary risks and hazards.

Researchers in the study found many instances of unsafe working conditions, including heavy machinery and hazardous materials like hypodermic needles, dead animals and toxic chemicals. The industry exacerbates the workplace hazards by its strong reliance on temporary workers, who tend to receive less safety training and might be unaware of their rights as workers.

Between 2011 and 2013, 17 fatalities among recycling workers occurred across the country. The study foudn that workers in these facilities face an accident and injury rate double that of the average worker. The study highlighted the death of a man crushed by a cardboard compactor. Cuts from broken glass and punctures by dirty needles were also common. The authors of the study sought to educate cities about how to improve workplace safety at their local recycling centers. They encouraged adoption of proven preventative techniques such as public education about what to put in collection bins and a shift to permanent employers.

Most workers in Minnesota are eligible to be covered by workers' compensation insurance. This insurance system is intended to provide benefits to people injured in workplace accidents. A person hurt on the job, however, may not be aware of what benefits are available or how to apply for them. An attorney who has experience in these matters can often provide guidance in that regard, and may also assist in the filing and preparation of the required claim for benefits.

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