Worker Injured at Recycling Plant Speaks of Job Risks

A North Carolina company is embroiled in a controversy in Michigan following a severe worker injury at a recycling plant in Ann Arbor that revealed a host of safety problems at the site, prompting the city to end its contract with the firm. Now, the injured worker, who alleges he told the manager of serious safety concerns hours before the accident, is fighting a contested workers’ compensation claim, while the company is suing the city for wrongful termination of the contract. recycle

MLive.com reports the recycling plant worker, a 47-year-old maintenance technician, said when he was brought on as an employee in February, management gave him a long list of things that needed to be fixed. Right away, he said, he noted the work environment seemed chaotic. Workers were allowed to smoke inside, which he worried created a fire hazard. Equipment was old and in need of repair. He also said there weren’t enough workers to safely do the job, and the ones who were employed there – mostly temporary workers hired through a staffing agency – weren’t properly trained or experienced.

The day of his injury, the worker says he told the plant manager, “Somebody’s going to get hurt, and it’s not going to be me.” But it was him. Hours later, a gear box that he and another worker were fixing came crashing down on his arm, tearing into the tendons and muscle in his forearm. His shoulder suffered injury too when he pulled hard to get his hand out from underneath the 500-pound machine. Six months later, he still can’t lift anything. He remains on pain medication and doctors tell him his arm will probably never be the same. 

On top of that, the company has refused to pay for his medical care under workers’ compensation. He hired a workers’ compensation lawyer, and is also debating whether to file a personal injury lawsuit with the firm. Generally, employees eligible for workers’ compensation benefits cannot also sue their employer under exclusive remedy provisions of the law. However, this case could qualify for an exception if the worker can show management was grossly negligent or intentionally put workers at serious risk.

Unfortunately, worker injuries at recycling plants is not just a local problem. This summer in Birmingham, England, five Spanish nationals were killed when a retaining wall holding scrap metal collapsed.

The Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) not long ago released a “Worker Safety in Recycling Facilities” brochure. The pamphlet notes that while recycling is good for the environment, it’s not necessarily great for worker health. That’s because recycling workers have some of the highest rates of industry and illness. Some of the most common injuries are:

  • Cuts
  • Sprains and Strains
  • Needle Stick Injuries
  • Being Hit by an Object
  • Dust/ Mold Illness
  • Ergonomic Injuries

There is also the risk of injury due to slips, trips and falls, particularly when workplaces aren’t regularly cleaned or de-cluttered or when workers don’t have the right shoes for the walking surface.

The vast majority of injuries are preventable, and employers/ managers do have a duty to protect workers and ensure they have a safe working environment.

Recycling plant workers have the right to information about any hazards, training on how to protect themselves (in a language workers understand), protective clothing/ equipment, written afety plans and a way to report potential hazards without fear of reprisal.

If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

Ann Arbor recycling plant worker injured on the job speaks out, Aug. 29, 2016, By Ryan Stanton, MLive.com

More Blog Entries:

Dion v. Batten – Subrogation Lien on North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Benefits, Aug. 28, 2016, Charlotte Workers’ Compensation Attorney Blog

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