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Worker health in formal electronic waste recycling plants

Daniel Côté (Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail, Montréal, Canada) (Université de Montréal, Montreal, Canada)
Sylvie Gravel (Université du Québec à Montréal, Montreal, Canada)
Stéphanie Gladu (Université du Québec à Montréal, Montreal, Canada)
Bouchra Bakhiyi (Université de Montréal, Montreal, Canada)
Sabrina Gravel (Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail, Montréal, Canada) (Université de Montréal, Montreal, Canada)

International Journal of Workplace Health Management

ISSN: 1753-8351

Article publication date: 14 May 2021

Issue publication date: 22 June 2021

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Abstract

Purpose

This article explores the protective measures and the occupational health and safety (OHS) prevention strategies in place in the formal electronic equipment recycling (e-recycling) industry, more specifically in the Greater Montreal area (Quebec, Canada) and their consequences: health inequalities and level of compliance with environmental standards.

Design/methodology/approach

Semi-structured interviews were conducted using two respondent-specific questionnaires, one for workers and one for supervisors. Data collection and analytic procedures drew from qualitative content analysis. It was tempted to identify differences in OHS practices in relation to the workers' employment status and to link the companies' OHS concerns to their level of compliance with environmental standards.

Findings

The article highlights specific OHS issues in the formal e-recycling industry. Enforcing compliance with environmental standards as a lever for promoting OHS appears to be a promising strategy. Another main finding was the workforce diversity and related OHS vulnerabilities in this industry and the challenges they pose to employers' ability to adequately and equally reach and protect all workers involved.

Originality/value

To date, too little attention appears to have been paid to working conditions and worker protection in this rapidly growing sector. Specific prevention programmes could be implemented and adapted to the industry's diverse workforce and its multiple OHS vulnerabilities. This issue calls for the international community to take responsibility, as many electronic waste (e-waste) generated worldwide is shipped to developing countries, where lack of regulation and control is much more striking in a sector that remains very largely informal.

Keywords

Citation

Côté, D., Gravel, S., Gladu, S., Bakhiyi, B. and Gravel, S. (2021), "Worker health in formal electronic waste recycling plants", International Journal of Workplace Health Management, Vol. 14 No. 3, pp. 292-309. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJWHM-04-2020-0049

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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