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Group targets unsafe working conditions at composting sites

Diversion of solid waste into recycling operations reduces problems with landfill expansion and provides positive benefits for New Jersey communities. As with any other workplace, composting and other recycling sites present a number of safety risks that must be addressed through a combination of regulation and education. The Solid Waste Association of North America included composting operations in a safety campaign called "Five to Stay Alive".

A specialist in organic waste and composting suggested that safety training in compost facilities has not been given the focus of other areas of education, such as odor management. Without serious attention to safety, the growing industry could expect matching growth in accidents and workers' compensation claims.

Industry leaders appear determined to prevent this. The campaign brought in experts to identify unsafe working conditions and develop materials for education of workers at composting sites and other solid waste facilities. The campaign uses a combination of flyers, posters and a website, all of which are available in English and Spanish. The guides promote practical tips for preventing a workplace injury accident involving common factors in solid waste facilities.

Adequate and routine safety training can help prevent workers from being injured on the job. Training efforts are not always enough, however, when supervisors are under the gun to increase production and workers' compensation claims are seen by management as just the cost of doing business. Victims who are injured on the job, along with their families, may end up suffering more than pain or permanent disability. Financial hardship from lost wages and medical expenses can become overwhelming. The families of workers who have been killed in a workplace accident caused by management's disregard of safety measures might want to meet with an attorney to discuss their options.

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