Workers in the recycling industry in California and around the country are twice as likely as other American workers to be injured on the job. While some of these injuries may require only minor treatment, many others are far more serious in nature. A report released on June 23 reveals that 17 recycling workers were killed in workplace accidents between 2011 and 2013, and researchers from the University of Illinois were joined by environmental and safety experts to see what could be done to reduce this number.

The sorting line is often the center of activity at a recycling facility, and many accidents are caused by workers coming into contact with hazardous items or materials like broken glass and hypodermic needles. The researchers say that the public can help to prevent this type of workplace injury by being more aware of the risks faced by workers when they place items in recycling bins.

Another safety problem in the recycling industry pointed out in the report is the often heavy reliance on temporary workers. The researchers say some accidents could be avoided if local governments paid more attention to the safety records of recycling facilities and recycling companies put a greater effort into training and retaining their employees. Stricter enforcement of federal and state safety protocols was also urged by the researchers.

Workers injured at recycling facilities may be entitled to claim benefits under the California workers’ compensation program, but employers sometimes contest such claims due to concerns over rising insurance rates. An attorney with experience in this area could advocate on behalf of an injured client when the employer claims that an accident was not work-related or that the worker is exaggerating the nature of the injuries.