Recycling Workers’ Health and Safety


“People don’t know about the important work that we do to help the environment. In the past we’ve been mostly quiet, but that’s changing now because we’re speaking up and organizing.” – Sorter at recycling facility in Alameda County

Workers in the recycling industry are exposed to numerous occupational health and safety hazards.

LOHP has collaborated with International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), Local 6 on a training program for workers in recycling facilities in Alameda County. The training is part of a broader county-wide campaign to raise standards in this industry. A coalition of worker, environmental and community organizations is engaged in the campaign.

LOHP developed training materials in English and Spanish (Worker Safety in Recycling Facilities/Seguridad para los trabajadores en las plantas de reciclaje) and trained 150 workers during 2013 and in 2014. The 4-hour training covered the following topics:

  • Common hazards in the recycling industry
  • Effects and protective measures for three specific hazard types: air-borne hazards, ergonomics and needles and other materials with blood
  • Workers’ rights, how to file a complaint with Cal/OSHA and taking action to address health and safety problems.

ILWU reports that workers are taking action to address hazards as a result of training. “Through the training workers have gained tremendous confidence. There have been several work stoppages in which workers stopped the conveyor belt because they were concerned about material that may contain asbestos or they see needles in the line,” says ILWU organizer Agustin Ramirez.


Suzanne Teran