Used needles put recycling workers at risk

Posted at 11:08 AM, Mar 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-15 11:08:48-04

NORWOOD, Ohio — More people are improperly disposing of medical needles, and Rumpke Waste and Recycling said it's subjecting the company's employees to potential risk.

Last year, 13 Rumpke employees were stuck with needles while on the job at its recycling centers. Nine of those cases were severe enough that they needed to to be reported to OSHA, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Rumpke recycling manager Bradley Dunn oversees 34 sorters who average about 40 picks per minute each.

"Over the course of a day, there's about half-a-million opportunities for a needle stick to occur," he said.

It's an occurrence that is increasingly common in the industry, according to Rumpke.

"We still see needles on a daily basis and do everything we can to prevent injuries," Dunn said.

Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana state laws allow for needles to be disposed of in the garbage, but it has to be done properly by placing medical needles in a sturdy, puncture-resistant container like a laundry detergent bottle, securing the lid with heavy duty tape and labeling the container "sharps" with permanent marker.

Rumpke spokeswoman Molly Yeager said the uncertainty of the needle's original use requires them to take every possible precaution.

"We're not sure if it was used for a pet to give medicine to, or a drug user or someone getting their diabetic insulin shot," she said.

Whatever the use may be, Yeager encouraged everyone to take the proper steps to secure disposed needles.

"We're asking our customers to help us out to make sure that we're keeping our employees safe," she said.