The City of Windsor says it has seen an increase in the number of garbage collectors stuck with hypodermic needles and other medical waste.
City environmental services manager Anne-Marie Albidone said between six and eight collectors have been stuck during the past two years. The latest incident happened three weeks ago when a collector was stuck four times from a needles in a bag.
"It's a pretty big concern for us," she told CBC Windsor. "Historically, they haven’t been that prevalent or common. But over the last two years we’ve seen more frequent occurrences and that’s what made us concerned."
Albidone said the collectors stuck have had to endure "a battery of medical tests."
They are tested for Hepatitis A, B, C and HIV.
"You can imagine how stressful that is, not knowing if you’ve contracted anything," Albidone said.
She said she isn't aware if any collectors have contracted diseases.
"But sometimes, these things don’t surface for some time," she said.
Wednesday, the city issued a statement to remind residents that improperly disposing of medical "sharps" poses a public health risk.
“Sharps” is a term for medical devices with sharp points or edges that can puncture or cut the skin. They include hypodermic needles, syringes, lancets or fingerstick devices to collect blood for testing.
“We want to make sure residents understand that if they dispose of their needles and sharps improperly, they are putting workers who collect their recyclables and trash at risk. Much of this work is done by hand, creating a hazardous situation for people who are providing a service to all of us,” Albidone said in the release.
The city wants to remind citizens to never put sharps, syringes, or hypodermic needles in the garbage.
"To ensure safe and proper disposal, use an approved sharps container," the release said. "If a sharps container is not available, store the needles in a hard plastic container with a lid, such as an empty peanut butter jar. Containers should then be brought to an approved location such as a local pharmacy."
Albidone said the incidents have been city-wide and not isolated to one residence or one neighbourhood.
She also said that police have not been involved in any of the incidents.
Even though the city has contracted out its garbage collection, the city must provide a safe work environment for all employees, including those they contract.
"What’s in our control is to advise our residents how to properly dispose of these items," Albidone said. "We’re doing everything we can to protect these collectors."
Turtle Island Recycling provides garbage services in Windsor but their contract doesn't allow officials to speak to the media.