270367 Workers' Voices: A Case Study of a Multi-Organizational Approach to Improving Hazards in the Recycling Industry

Monday, October 29, 2012 : 11:30 AM - 11:50 AM

Andrea Nicholls, MPH , Health and Safety Coordinator, Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO / UCLA-LOSH, Los Angeles, CA
Linda Delp, PhD, MPH , Labor Occupational Safety & Health Program (LOSH), University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Shirley Alvarado-Del Aguila , SoCalCOSH, Los Angeles, CA
Although federal and state regulations exist for many hazards in the waste and recycling industry, workers often face barriers which make the enforcement of such protections a challenge. Materials recovery facilities (MRFs) receive and sort through the municipal mixed waste stream, a task that requires the manual separation of recyclable from non-recyclable waste. In addition to the inherent hazards associated with this work, employees at these facilities are often especially vulnerable as temporary, immigrant, non-English speaking and non-union workers. Such workers often lack knowledge of their rights as employees, are provided with little to no training, and have inadequate personal protective equipment. Highlighting a case study from an MRF in Los Angeles, this presentation will describe the role of a multi-organizational effort to uncover and mitigate the occupational hazards in the sanitation industry, at both the grassroots and the policy levels. Embedded in the context of a unionization effort and Los Angeles' "Zero Waste" goal, issues of worker health and safety have surfaced as a key concern for both labor and environmental advocates. Through a partnership of UCLA-LOSH, the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, SoCalCOSH, the Teamsters union, and the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, workers have become actively engaged in the Cal/OSHA complaint process, participated in health and safety trainings, spoke publicly about their experiences, and are involved in a broader push to improve protections for workers in the sanitation industry and to increase government agency responsiveness to workers' needs.

Learning Areas:
Advocacy for health and health education
Occupational health and safety

Learning Objectives:
1. Name at least five occupational hazards faced by workers in materials recovery facilities (MRFs). 2. Describe the barriers to obtaining healthy and safe workplaces among vulnerable workers in the waste and recycling industry. 3. Explain the advantages of labor, university, community and environmental partnerships in improving workplace health and safety at the employer, city and state levels.

Keywords: Workplace Safety, Vulnerable Populations

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am working under a federally funded training grant, with a focus on low-wage and immigrant workers. I have conducted in-depth interviews with workers in the sanitation industry to document their occupational hazards and exposures. I have used this information to assist these workers through the Cal/OSHA complaint process and have conducted health and safety trainings. I have spoken publicly about my findings to influence policy and increase public awareness.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.