Needlestick injuries - a growing problem for Dublin waste disposal workers

Monday May 22 2017

Needlestick injuries are becoming an increasing problem for waste disposal workers in Dublin, Ireland, new figures reveal.

The Irish Times reports that 67 binmen working for Dublin City Council have been the victim of a sharps injury while at work since 2011. Although only one has occurred this year so far, ten needlestick incidents were reported in 2016 as the result of needles being left in bins or in sleeping bags on the street rather than being disposed of correctly.

There is a danger that anyone who receives an injury from a needle that is broken or that has already been used on another person could be at risk of contracting blood-borne infections such as HIV and hepatitis C, which can be life-threatening.

Data from Dublin City Council also shows that the local authority had to pay out €83,779 (£72,344) in 2012 for claims relating to needlestick injuries among waste disposal personnel due to the risk posed to workers' health by these incidents.

Speaking to the newspaper, waste collection worker Paddy Kavanagh said: "Every day of the week, you could see three or four syringes."

He highlighted that the city's alleyways and the Temple Bar area are the places where discarded needles are most likely to be found, meaning these locations could pose a serious public health risk.

Tony Duffin, director of the local Ana Liffey Drug Project, added that the organisation believes at least 400 dangerous needles are left discarded throughout Dublin each month.

"The further rollout of public sharps bins across the city would reduce the amount of discarded sharps and keep us all safer from harm."

For now, needle users either need to be disposing of their used sharps implements in designated bins at their local pharmacy, medical centre or hospital, or attend a supervised injection facility where they will be provided with clean needles that can only be used once, as well as a place for them to be disposed of.

These centres should also be using specialist needle safety devices to prevent broken or used needles from being used, as this can help to halt the spread of infection further. 

It also means that if sharps instruments are discarded of in the street or another unsafe manner, they won't be able to cause harm to anyone else, thereby protecting the safety of waste disposal workers throughout the city.

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