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Waste collection worker hurt by needle in garbage bag

Second time in six months regional workers hurt by needle

By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express

The Region of Durham is calling on residents to be careful what they put in their garbage following two injuries by waste collection workers in the past six months.

According to a news release from the regional works department, two workers have been injured after being struck by used hypodermic needles put in garbage bags.

“Fortunately they are OK, but it could’ve been much worse,” Craig Bartlett, the region’s manager of waste operations, tells The Oshawa Express.

“Residents really need to be careful, treat it like its their son or daughter or husband or wife picking up that garbage. Would you want them handling this?”

Bartlett says the two workers underwent a series of tests and have returned to work.

Objects that can cut skin and come into contact with bodily fluids, such as hypodermic needles, syringes, EpiPens or lancets must never be disposed of in the garbage or recycling. Instead, they have to be taken back to the pharmacy free of charge or returned in an approved container, which are also distributed free of charge at pharmacies.

Those found to have set out waste that could pose a health and/or safety hazard to collectors are subject to a fine. Bartlett says the fine starts at $125 for a first offence, and that if it continues, there can be a full ban on the property for garbage collection.

Bartlett, however, says that it should not even have to come to the point of issuing that first fine.

“One is too many,” he says about needles left in garbage bags, adding that in the GTA, there are approximately 10 incidents per year involving needles and waste collection workers.

“It’s on a more regular basis than they should be.”

He says that along with discussing – and potentially fining – residents, the region also finds out who issued the prescription for which the needle was issued and go speak with that doctor or veterinarian to ensure they are giving vital disposal information to their patients.

For a list of participating pharmacies, please visit healthsteward.ca. For more information on the region’s waste bylaw, please visit durham.ca/wastebylaw.