El Paso County Recycling Plant Fire Raising Alarms

by | Apr 17, 2024 | Personal Injury, Premises Liability, Work Injury, Workplace Accident, Workplace Explosion, Workplace Injuries, Workplace Safety

Fire crews spent hours working to extinguish a fire at a recycling plant in El Paso County this week. The fire sent a plume of black smoke into the air raising concerns for nearby communities. Multiple fire departments responded to the facility, where it was noted that a lack of nearby hydrants resulted in firefighters having to leave the scene to get water. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Incidents like this one always raise alarms to the hazards of industrial sites, including recycling plants. It is important for those working or living near a recycling plant to be aware of the hazards and risks. It is also important to be aware of your legal rights should you be injured in a recycling plant incident. In the article below, the personal injury attorneys at Kherkher Garcia provide the details you need to protect yourself and your rights.

Recycling Plant Fire Details

A fire broke out at a recycling plant in far East El Paso County on Tuesday, April 16th. The fire caused large plumes of black smoke to rise in the air and was visible from a significant distance. Fire crews from El Paso County ESD 2, Montana Vista, Socorro Horizon, and even Clint fire departments responded to the blaze.

The fire reportedly took about two hours to extinguish due to the lack of fire hydrants in the area, requiring crews to haul in water from surrounding locations. Thankfully, no injuries were reported in the incident. The cause of the fire is currently under investigation. The owner of the plant suspects it may be due to improper disposal of materials like fireworks or cigarettes on the property.

As can be expected, this incident is raising alarms to the potential hazards of recycling plants, as well as oversight and maintenance. Officials noted that there are only four inspectors in El Paso County, which encompasses 1,000 square miles. The county would like to hire additional inspectors, and foster better relationships with plant owners, in an effort to prevent fires like this one.

What are the Hazards of Recycling Plants?

Recycling plants play a crucial role in managing waste and promoting sustainability, but they also come with certain hazards, including:

  • Fire hazards: Recycling plants often handle a variety of materials, some of which may be flammable or combustible. If these materials are not properly sorted or managed, they can pose a fire risk. Additionally, chemical reactions between certain materials can lead to fires or explosions.
  • Exposure to hazardous substances: Recycling facilities may handle materials that contain hazardous substances, such as heavy metals, chemicals, or biological contaminants. Workers may be exposed to these substances through direct contact or inhalation.
  • Machinery accidents: Recycling plants typically use heavy machinery and equipment to process and sort materials. Improper operation of this machinery or lack of proper safety protocols can result in accidents such as crush injuries, amputations, or falls.
  • Physical strain: Jobs at recycling plants often involve manual labor, including lifting heavy objects, sorting materials on conveyor belts, and operating machinery. This can lead to musculoskeletal injuries if proper ergonomics and lifting techniques are not followed.
  • Dust and particulate matter: Recycling processes can generate dust and airborne particles, which may contain contaminants or irritants. Prolonged exposure to these particles can lead to respiratory issues and other health problems for workers.
  • Noise pollution: Recycling plants can be noisy environments due to the operation of machinery and equipment. Prolonged exposure to high levels of noise can lead to hearing loss and other auditory issues for workers if proper ear protection is not used.

To mitigate these hazards, recycling plants must implement comprehensive safety measures, provide appropriate training for workers, maintain equipment properly, and adhere to regulatory standards. Regular risk assessments and safety inspections are also essential to identify and address potential hazards in the workplace.

What Types of Incidents are Common at Recycling Plants?

Several accidents and incidents are common at recycling plants due to the nature of their operations. Some of the most common include:

Machinery Accidents

Recycling plants use various types of heavy machinery and equipment for sorting, processing, and compacting materials. Accidents involving these machines can occur due to:

  • Improper operation
  • Mechanical failures
  • Lack of maintenance
  • Inadequate training

These accidents can result in crush injuries, entanglements, amputations, or even fatalities.

Fires and Explosions

Recycling plants handle a wide range of materials, including paper, plastics, metals, and electronics, some of which can be flammable or combustible. Fires and explosions can occur due to:

  • Improper handling of materials
  • Spontaneous combustion
  • Electrical faults
  • Chemical reactions

These incidents pose significant risks to workers’ safety and can cause extensive damage to property and the environment.

Chemical Exposure

Recycling plants may encounter materials containing hazardous substances such as heavy metals, solvents, acids, or biological contaminants. Workers may be exposed to these substances through:

  • Direct contact
  • Inhalation of fumes
  • Skin absorption

Each of these can lead to health issues such as poisoning, respiratory problems, skin irritation, or long-term health effects.

Slips, Trips, and Falls

Recycling plants often have busy and cluttered work environments with uneven surfaces, conveyor belts, and moving equipment, increasing the risk of slips, trips, and falls. These accidents can result in injuries ranging from minor bruises to fractures or head injuries.

Transportation Accidents

Recycling plants involve the movement of materials within the facility as well as transportation of finished products or waste to and from the site. Accidents involving forklifts, trucks, or other vehicles can occur due to collisions, overturns, or improper loading and unloading procedures, posing risks to workers and bystanders.

Musculoskeletal Injuries

Recycling plant workers may be at risk of musculoskeletal injuries due to:

  • Repetitive tasks
  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Working in awkward positions

These injuries can include strains, sprains, back injuries, or cumulative trauma disorders.

To prevent these accidents and incidents, recycling plants should prioritize safety by implementing comprehensive safety programs, providing proper training and supervision for workers, conducting regular equipment inspections and maintenance, enforcing safety protocols, and promoting a culture of safety awareness among employees. Additionally, compliance with relevant regulatory standards and guidelines is essential to ensure a safe working environment for all.

What are My Rights if I Have Been Injured in a Recycling Plant Incident?

If you’ve been injured in a recycling plant incident, you have certain rights aimed at protecting your health, safety, and well-being. These rights may vary depending on your jurisdiction and the specific circumstances of the incident, but some common rights include:

Right to Medical Treatment

You have the right to receive prompt and appropriate medical treatment for your injuries. This may include emergency care, follow-up treatment, rehabilitation services, and ongoing medical support as needed.

Right to Report the Incident

You have the right to report the incident to your employer or supervisor as soon as possible. This allows them to initiate an investigation, document the details of the incident, and take corrective actions to prevent similar incidents in the future.

Right to Workers’ Compensation Benefits

In many jurisdictions, workers who are injured on the job are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. These benefits typically include coverage for medical expenses, lost wages due to time off work, disability benefits, and vocational rehabilitation services. You have the right to file a workers’ compensation claim to seek these benefits.

Right to Legal Representation

You have the right to seek legal advice and representation from an experienced attorney who specializes in workplace injuries. A lawyer can help you understand your rights, navigate the workers’ compensation process, gather evidence to support your claim, negotiate with insurance companies, and pursue legal action if necessary.

Right to a Safe Work Environment

As an employee, you have the right to work in a safe and healthy environment. Employers have a legal obligation to provide a workplace free from known hazards, implement safety protocols and procedures, provide appropriate training and personal protective equipment, and comply with relevant occupational health and safety regulations.

Right to Non-Retaliation

You have the right to exercise your rights without fear of retaliation from your employer or coworkers. It is illegal for employers to retaliate against employees for reporting workplace injuries, filing workers’ compensation claims, or participating in safety-related activities.

If you have been injured in a recycling plant incident, it is essential to take prompt action to protect your rights.

Learn More from a Personal Injury Attorney

If you or someone you love is injured due to a recycling plant incident, learn more from a personal injury attorney today. At Kherkher Garcia, our attorneys have decades of experience helping clients recover after industrial incidents. With a free consultation, you can learn about your rights, your legal options, and the best options to secure the compensation you deserve.

You don’t have to navigate the aftermath of an accident or injury alone. Get expert guidance and advocacy with the team at Kherkher Garcia. Contact us now to start your free consultation and take the first step towards recovery and resolution. Call 713-333-1030, or complete our online form to get started.


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Kevin Haynes

Kevin Haynes

Firm Partner and Trial Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Injury Trial Lawyer and Firm Partner Kevin Haynes. Kevin has been a practicing injury lawyer for more than 15 years. He has won $150 Million+ in Settlements and Verdicts for his clients. Kevin is powerful and effective in the courtroom and the trial lawyer you want on your side if you or a loved one have been seriously injured at work or on the road.

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