Council workers face needlestick injury risk
Public services union UNISON has issued guidance for local government safety reps on needlestick injuries, following evidence that many members are at risk of contracting hepatitis B and C and HIV, due to discarded needles.
A recent survey of 239 local authorities, by the Tidy Britain Group, found that there had been 226 injuries due to discarded needles between 1995 and 1998, of which 60% were injuries to local government workers. However, only 51% of local authorities had trained street sweepers and provided them with kits to protect themselves from discarded needles and 36% had no official procedure to recover needles.
Those most at risk include street cleaners, refuse collectors and those working in public parks and playing fields.
The union says an example of the problems encountered involved one of its cleaning supervisor members, Ged Wilde, who suffered a needlestick injury earlier this year when he was called in to clear a council property in Wisbech, Norfolk, where hundreds of used needles had been found. One of the needles snapped as he was clearing up and went through one of his gloves into his thumb. He now has to wait for several more months to find out if he may have been infected with either HIV or hepatitis.
The guidance includes details of what a needlestick policy should detail, including protection, procedures for disposal and suitable systems of work.