Starbucks is expanding the installation of safety disposal boxes for used syringes to protect workers from injuries cleaning bathrooms or handling trash.
Workers at the coffee chain have reported finding blood and hypodermic needles in bathrooms, and some say they have been pricked by stray syringes, which risks exposure to bacteria, HIV and hepatitis.
The company began installing needle-disposal boxes at some locations in January and will place them everywhere employees request them, a spokesman told Bloomberg. Starbucks acknowledges the “scary situations” and its need to ensure that workers “are out of harm’s way,” the spokesman said in an email.
Starbucks has already installed the boxes in some 25 locations, according to Business Insider, including every outlet in Seattle.
Starbucks was fined $3,100 last year in Oregon following complaints from two employees who were struck with needles within a month of each other at a location in Eugene, reported Business Insider. Thousands of workers have called for Starbucks to install so-called sharps boxes in an online petition.
“At the end of the day, we want to make sure that our partners are safe,” Starbucks spokesman Reggie Borges told HuffPost earlier this year, referring to workers. “I don’t think this is a problem unique to Starbucks. I think a lot of retail business are dealing with this.”
Dr. Alysse Wurcel, an attending infectious disease physician at Tufts Medical Center, told HuffPost: “It’s sad that we have to have people injecting in bathrooms. It’s a symptom of a larger problem.”