Workers in the solid waste collection and recycling industry are at risk for certain injuries, especially needlesticks caused by used hypodermic needles, lancets and other sharps. Such workers in Georgia may even think that their companies do little to enforce OSHA’s standards regarding the detection of needles. However, a recent engagement action may indicate that OSHA is upholding its standards more than ever.
In particular, OSHA has entered into a settlement agreement with TOMRA NY Recycling LLC. For employees who manually sort through recyclables, the company has agreed to provide the following: equipment like puncture-resistant gloves and tongs, vaccinations against hepatitis B and annual training on OSHA’s BBP standards. BBP stands for bloodborne pathogen, an infectious microorganism that blood (and consequently used needles) can potentially carry.
BBP standards did not cover sorters in previous decisions made by OSHA. For example, in 1993, an OSHA inquiry led one recycling facility to adopt a rule whereby it would stop its conveyors each time a needle was found; this only required the conveyors’ supervisors to follow OSHA safeguards. A decade later, OSHA told one company that failing to include its employees in the BBP Program and give them hepatitis vaccinations could result in serious citations. It also stated that determining reasonable exposure to BBPs should be done on a facility-by-facility basis.
As a part of workplace safety, employers must ensure that employees are safe from BBP contamination. When employees suffer needlestick injuries, the company could be held liable. In such cases, victims may wish to bypass workers’ compensation and file a personal injury claim. This is where a lawyer can help. He or she could hire investigators to see where work conditions did not accord with OSHA regulations. After estimating a settlement, the lawyer can then negotiate or take the case to court.