Danger Pay

E-waste processing isn't the safest of industries.

A few months ago I was helping load bits onto a trailer. Favourite Man threw a printer onto the load - but it separated mid-air into pieces, scattered gracefully, and one heavy part sliced my forehead open just above my eyebrow! Accidents happen - it did heal up quickly, but if I scratch there now I feel it somewhere else (a bit like my right knee after falling out of a still-moving train during my college years).

It's become the norm to have cuts and bruises, rough hands and increasingly stringy muscles in my arms.

It used to be that we'd compare Landy injuries after working on Olivia, but now it's e-waste all the way!

Tonight I sit here typing gingerly with a gouge out of a little finger, a jumper-poked hole in my thumb, 14 cuts that I can see clearly on hands and fingers, and numerous others that I can feel. My fingertips are rough, there are screwdriver-formed callouses on my right palm and just past the point where my fingers bend to grip things. There are bruises on my arms, my legs.

And yet I love doing this. As horrible as it may be to have to destroy carefully-made electronic things, I enjoy the challenge, the journey of discovery when a new load of stuff comes in, the possibility that there's something really cool in there, the opportunity to learn about machines and how they work, the knowledge that I'm doing some very good work for the sake of the planet. Then there's the fun and sense of accomplishment that comes with bucking the norm, being a woman in what may be traditionally a man's industry - facing the challenges of learning how to manage and do business and deal and organize. There's everything from prompt and efficient customer service to physical labour that gives a load of variety to every day's work.

Yes, it's dangerous. We've all been injured from heavy falling parts, getting feet and hands squashed, muscles stretched, flying glass or plastic narrowly missing something vital, or fingers pinched in pliers and gouged by screwdrivers. It takes care and concentration to do this - and we don't always get it right.

But the satisfaction of doing it well is nearly enough compensation - and about all the danger pay I'll realistically be getting :-)

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