Top News

Needle pokes a workplace hazard at Kemptown recycling facility

Carelessly discarded sharps are a painful and frustrating workplace hazard for employees at the municipal recycling facility in Kemptown.
Carelessly discarded sharps are a painful and frustrating workplace hazard for employees at the municipal recycling facility in Kemptown. - Contributed

UPDATED

KEMPTOWN, N.S. —

A slight shot of pain; a “prick” as it were.
But in that split second the worker at the municipal recycling facility in Kemptown knew that all the fear and frustration she had endured over the past six months, and which she thought were behind her, would start again. All because of someone’s carelessness.
“I was working away sorting through recyclables on the fibre line and I felt a stick and immediately I pulled the line and thought to myself, ‘oh, please not again,’” said the worker who did not want to be named.
“I removed my gloves and started squeezing my finger and I saw it bleeding with a little prick and I looked down onto the conveyor belt and inches away I saw the needle and that’s when I knew I was poked … again.”
Needlestick pokes are a reality for people who regularly use needles, said Ishamar Senior Gentles, Environmental and Education officer at Colchester County’s solid waste facility. But when people use needles carelessly by disposing of them in the garbage and among recyclables, they can unknowingly injure people, such as solid waste resource workers. 
Upon receiving a needle poke, workers at the facility must first clean the wound immediately and then provide a blood sample within 24 hours to ensure they don’t have an existing disease. They are then required to have further blood samples taken at three- and six-month intervals following the incident to ensure they haven’t contracted anything from the disposed needle. If they're clear to that point, a final blood test is done 12 months after the injury occurred.
Not only is that inconvenient, the woman said, but it creates stress and worry for such victims and their families.
“I felt angry, I was mad and upset,” she said. “This is my second time being poked by a needle in the course of seven months. I was on the last leg of my initial tests, medication and blood work for the first injury and now to get poked again and having to start the process all over again is exhausting and frustrating.
“Being poked has affected me emotionally, mentally and physically. The wear and tear of not knowing if I am infected and, if so, with what, has left me with anxiety. I always followed protocol, I am always safe at work with my gloves, glove liners and arm guards on, to avoid being poked by needles.”
Despite such precautions, injuries occur.
Scott Fraser, the country's director of Corporate Services said the number of needle pokes fluctuate but there are an average of one to three case per year. But there is no need for any.
"There are also many near-miss cases where items are identified and we stop production to safely handle the materials when they are improperly disposed of as well," he said. "All could be avoided with proper disposal."
Senior Gentles described the number of needle pokes at the facility as "alarming" and said more public education is required to protect the facility’s workers.
Over the next 12 months, the worker who was poked must continue to have her bloodwork checked until she receives the results to determine her next steps.
“You can help us keep our workers safe,” Senior Gentles said. “Safe Sharps containers are free across the province and can be obtained at any pharmacy. All residential sharps should be placed in a Safe Sharps container and once it is full, it can be returned to the pharmacy."
The Waste Resource Association of Nova Scotia has also created a campaign to bring awareness to the impact that unsafe sharp disposal can have.
To learn more about the impact of needles in the waste stream, go to the “Don’t Be A Prick” Facebook Page or visit dontbeaprick.org .
 

Recent Stories