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Recycling may be hazardous to workers' health

Pennsylvania residents who work for recycling businesses may want to be extra careful as they do their jobs. That is because these types of enterprises are not necessarily among the safest places to work.

A new study done by the University of Illinois School of Public Health, with assistance from other groups, said that 17 recycling workers died from workplace injuries from 2011 to 2013. These workers are twice as likely to suffer workplace injuries as the average person in other occupations. While recycling is good for the environment, it may not be good for those who work in the industry. Workers on sorting lines may come in contact with used hypodermic needles, broken glass, remains of dead animals or hazardous chemicals that have not been disposed of properly. Operating heavy equipment used in recycling also can impact worker safety.

Study authors say to improve workplace safety cities should investigate recycling businesses and require them to have comprehensive safety programs in place. Cities also should have community programs in place to educate the public about sorting their recyclables and properly disposing of them. Since temporary workers are more likely to be involved in on-the-job accidents because they are unfamiliar with equipment and proper sorting techniques, recycling businesses should not use them.

Workplace injuries can be devastating to workers and their families. Workers' compensation benefits may be available to eligible employees that would cover necessary medical expenses and provide a portion of the wages that they lost if they are unable to return to work during the period of recovery and rehabilitation. An attorney can often be of assistance to a worker in the preparation and filing of the required claim.

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