The hazards of needles to MRF sorters are well recognized, but new research puts an estimate to just how many workers are injured by them each year.
In a survey, more than half of MRF operators said they had employees injured by needles in a given year, according to a study by the Environmental Research & Education Foundation (EREF). Extrapolating survey results, researchers estimated that hundreds, if not well over a thousand, MRF workers are injured by needles annually.
“MRFs across the U.S. are working to decrease contamination in order to meet China’s new standards, putting more pressure on picking line workers to remove contamination and increasing the possibility of injury,” Bryan Staley, EREF CEO and president, stated in a press release. “Given the limited data available on needlesticks, this study aims to inform discussions and decision making related to worker safety.”
For the study, EREF collaborated with the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA). In the press release, David Biderman, SWANA’s CEO and executive director, noted that needlesticks are a growing occupational hazard at MRFs and other solid waste facilities.
Though this study will provide essential information regarding the approaches to safety in MRFs, it is of some concern that the needle stick reports are not accurately validated. Not to underplay the importance of this issue, there is only limited confidence that each injury was indeed a needlestick and not a cut, graze or penetrating injury from some other sharps item such as wood, plastic, tin cans, glass etc.