Sudbury community groups design safety checklist for needle pickup

Needle pokes are just one of the many hazards for outreach workers on Sudbury streets.

SACY and Workplace Safety North outline list of dangers to workers

Workers who pick up discarded needles often use tongs to touch the material. (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

Needle pokes are just one of the many hazards for outreach workers on Sudbury streets.

Now, Workplace Safety North and the Sudbury Action Centre for Youth have developed a checklist to keep track of health and safety issues.

Angele Poitras, a worker with WSN, says there are other issues such as the mental stress of witnessing an overdose, or coming in contact with human waste.

"The needle [checklist] came about as a community engagement project," Poitras said. "We are neighbours in downtown Sudbury and we realize that we're in the midst of an opioid crisis and we realized we could be part of the solution or we can contribute to the problem."

When WSN found out that SACY was the group picking up needles in Sudbury, they approached the group to gauge their interest in protecting workers. 

"When we think of picking up needles, we think of just the prick itself of the needle as being the only risk that these workers have," she said. "But actually they were able to identify [several] risks that workers may have when they're picking up needles."

Risk for workers include coming into contact with human waste, encountering violent people, and dealing with day-to-day mental stresses. 

"One of the first steps we did is we asked our engineer who is also a health and safety consultant to actually go and walk downtown Sudbury and pick up needles and meet the people and hear the stories."

The checklist Poitras said, is expected to raise health and safety awareness for workers picking up needles. 

"We wanted it to be a document that could beyond SACY staff using the registry," Poitras said. 

"This can be used by other volunteer organizations and other communities across the north or actually all of Ontario to keep their workers safe and health when they go picking up needles."

Now, she says other groups are expressing interest.
"We've had people reaching out that have heard about it," Poitras said. " And they've said 'Can we see it? We've never heard of anything like this, we would like to know more about it.'"

Workplace Safety North said it intends to present the checklist at various conventions this spring and make it available to groups free of charge.

With files from Kate Rutherford


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