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Needlestick injuries common in trash and recycling facilities: report

recycling belt
Photo: hroe/iStockphoto

Raleigh, NC — An estimated 781 to 1,484 needlestick-related injuries – a rate of 2.7 per 100 workers – occur annually at solid waste and recycling material recovery facilities, according to a recent report from the Environmental Research and Education Foundation and the Solid Waste Association of North America.

Researchers surveyed the owners of material recovery facilities in North America about needlestick occurrences at their facilities. Based on the 35 responses they received, the researchers determined that 53 percent of the facilities see needles daily or a few times a week, and more than half find needles mixed in with plastics.

Picking-line workers experienced the highest rate of needlestick-related incidents because of their direct contact with waste material. The researchers also found that needlestick-related injuries may account for 45 percent of all injuries at material recovery facilities.

Using feedback from the owners, the researchers recommend several needlestick safety tips for employers:

  • Use personal protective equipment.
  • Evaluate facility operations and equipment.
  • Promote community education on safe disposal methods, including placing needles and other sharps in properly labeled, rigid containers or using community drop-off sites, mail-back programs or special residential collection systems.

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