Shooting up: A warning for waste handlers

The Health Protection Agency have released a new Public Health England report, “Shooting Up, the annual report on infections among people who inject drugs (PWID) in the United Kingdom, has been published by Public Health England”.

The data paints a picture of high levels of Hepatitis C infection in PWIDs, and an ongoing trend for Hepatitis B and HIV infections.

Why should this concern us? Sharps waste from hospitals, GPs and other health premises are placed directly into approved sharps bins so the risk is minimised. Of course, that is assuming that the bin is properly assembled and sealed, not overfilled or badly blood-spalseh on the outside, and that healthcare professionals have not put uncovered sharps into an inappropriate waste container such as an orange sack or laundry bag.

Those responsible for the collection of discarded sharps potentially face a far greater risk and must take additional steps to ensure protection of their workforce. Read the report, and considering if the PPE provided to those tasked with needle collection, most of which have been discarded by PWID, think about what other resources are needed to keep them safe. Good quality sharps-resistant gloves or gauntlets, suitable pickers capable of grasping a syringe of needle, perhaps a magnetic device, ballistic reinforced trousers and tops, protected soles on study boots, and suitable arrangements for personal hygiene that must comprise, as a minimum, an ample supply of medicated or detergent wipes to be used before the generous application of alcohol hand gel.

And don’t forget training, an occasional toolbox talk, and induction for all new staff including agency staff. Supervision must be adequate, to ensure that all instructions and safety precautions are properly adopted at all times.

Make it safe. Keep your employees out of hospital, and your company out of Court.


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