Third of waste workers at risk of sharps injury, highlighting need for PPE

Friday May 26 2017

Almost one-third of waste disposal workers across the globe are at risk of a sharps injury while carrying out their job, according to a new report.

PK Safety has published an analysis showing that 31 per cent of waste disposal personnel are in close contact with infectious materials and equipment, such as used syringes and harmful chemicals, for at least 25 per cent of the time that they spend at work.

This risk is particularly high for waste disposal workers, as they spend all day coming into contact with binbags that could contain anything from pharmaceuticals to needles and contaminated blood. These latter two items place waste workers at risk of contracting potentially life-threatening blood-borne conditions, including HIV and hepatitis C.

In fact, statistics from the European Working Conditions Survey 2010 show that on average 25 per cent of workers report having their health adversely affected by their work, but this rises to more than one-third (33.9 per cent) among waste disposal workers due to the extra risks they face.
As a result, these findings highlight the importance of personal protective equipment (PPE) for waste disposal workers. It should already be the case that these individuals are issued with such items, but the protection that they provide against needlesticks also needs to be taken into account following the publication of these survey results.

Face masks to prevent the inhalation of dust and safety glasses to protect the eyes should be standard issue, while heavy-duty clothing, safety boots and specialist gloves to protect against piercing or cuts from sharp implements should also be rolled out to waste workers in the future.

These measures could help to reduce the risk faced by ordinary working people who are simply trying to carry out their jobs, as there is no reason that they should have to face the threat of contracting conditions such as HIV and hepatitis C while trying to earn a living.

Image credit: Photobos via iStock