Avoidable needlestick injuries
Some might say this is a natural occupational hazard with a negligible injury that should just be accepted, but the reality is very different. These injuries can usually be avoided and their effect can be quite profound because of the risk of the victim contracting a serious illness from the needle. Blood borne pathogens such as Hepatitis B and C and HIV are a particular risk.
Disposal of medical needles
All hospital, GP surgeries and other medical practices should have a proper procedure in place for disposing of sharps and needles. Usually it will be a hard plastic or metal container with a lid. Occasionally there will be no suitable container available and so a bag or box is used, or a needle is carelessly left lying about. There are now clear and well known rules (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, or NICE guidelines) governing the safe use of needles and sharps in the clinical setting. Despite the guidelines there remain many thousands of cases a year and the numbers are almost certainly underreported.
Risks when carrying refuse bags at work
The risks to refuse workers are less now that bagged rubbish is usually put in wheely bins and the bins mechanically emptied into the refuse lorry, but where the workers are routinely carrying black bin bags there is the risk of injury from a needle or other sharp object. Clear bags will only be necessary if there is a particular risk e.g. where a bar is disposing of glass bottles, but employers of those required to take out rubbish must address the risk and consider providing personal protective equipment e.g. gloves.
Recent case study
Osbornes represented a man who worked for a local council and he was asked to clear up an area in a yard where drug users were known to congregate. He was given no safety equipment and so carried out the job with a dustpan and brush. In so doing he received a pinprick from a used needle that was lying on the floor. He naturally feared that he had contracted a disease and was advised by the hospital that there was a significant risk of being infected with Hepatitis or HIV. It took 3 months for the test results to come back and in that time he had developed a serious anxiety state that greatly affected his family and work life, and he needed counselling, even after the results came back negative, to get over the psychological trauma.