Territory and Municipal Services


Sharps policy

Purpose

The inappropriate disposal of sharps (needles, syringes), scalpels, razors and other blades and clinical waste, injecting equipment or any item contaminated with blood or other bodily fluids is a major concern to the ACT Government and Territory and Municipal Services (TAMS).

Background

Intravenous drug users utilise a variety of needles, syringes (sharps) and injecting equipment which is classified as clinical waste once used, such as skin cleansing alcohol swabs; plastic tubes or bottles filled with water; and spoons or other small containers to hold and mix drugs.

Irresponsibly discarded sharps present the risk of needlestick injury to the public and employees. A needlestick injury has the potential to infect the person who received the injury with blood-borne infections such as Hepatitis B or C, or HIV. While the risk of contracting one of these blood-borne infections from a needlestick injury is very low, the collection and safe disposal of discarded sharps remains a high priority.

Strategic direction

In order to ensure safe recreation and urban open space areas for the community, TAMS provides sharps disposal containers in all public toilets, inspects and cleans urban open spaces and provides a Sharps Hotline to collect sharps reported by the community from urban open space, lakes and ponds. Four sharps drop-off points are open from 8 am to 4 pm from Monday to Friday. These drop-off points are located at the CityScape Depots at: Allara Street, Canberra City; Botany Street, Phillip; Scollay Street, Greenway and Moubray Place, Belconnen.

1. TAMS aims to remove sharps and clinical waste from urban open space as quickly as possible.

As soon as a needle, syringe or any clinical waste is found in an area under the management of TAMS, either by an employee on a routine inspection or by a member of the public, it is reported and removed by a trained employee.

Actions

  • The ACT Government has a 24 hour Sharps Hotline (13 22 81) for people to report sharps or clinical waste which has been discarded irresponsibly. If the sharps or clinical waste are located on unleased land, a City Ranger will pick up the sharps or clinical waste as soon as possible.
  • Regular inspections of open space areas are undertaken by contractors. These inspections include specifically looking for sharps and clinical waste. Public toilet blocks are inspected daily, public places at shopping centres are also inspected daily. Playgrounds and barbecue sites are inspected on a weekly basis, and parks are inspected during routine maintenance work.
  • The number of sharps disposed of in the appropriate way- in needle and syringe disposal units - is estimated and recorded by TAMS.

2. TAMS provides sharps disposal containers in all public toilets in urban open space.

Public toilets are one of the more common places for intravenous drug users to inject drugs, so the provision of sharps disposal containers is essential for the responsible disposal of sharps and clinical waste. Also, the vast majority of injecting drug users are aware that disposal facilities are available in public toilets, so they are more likely to dispose of sharps and clinical waste in a responsible manner.

Actions

  • Sharps disposal containers are provided in all public toilets managed by TAMS.
  • Sharps disposal containers in public toilets managed by TAMS are emptied at a minimum on a fortnightly basis, and more frequently in high use areas.
  • The number of sharps disposed of in sharps disposal containers is estimated and recorded and patterns of use are determined from data kept by Parks and City Services.
  • Sharps disposal containers in public toilets have been manufactured to meet the relevant Australian Standard for the disposal of sharp objects (AS 4031-1992).

3. The Sharps Hotline is the central point for reporting any issue or obtaining information on sharps.

The Sharps Hotline (13 22 81) provides information and referral for any person who may have suffered a needlestick injury. It accepts reports from and provides information for anyone who has found a sharp, and passes on that information to the agency responsible for the removal of sharps. Alternatively, if the sharps are found on private land, the caller will be advised of the appropriate disposal procedures and given the location of the nearest sharps drop-off point.

Actions

  • If a needle or syringe is found in a public place, DO NOT TOUCH IT with any part of your body or move it with any object. Note and mark the location and call the Sharps Hotline (13 22 81).
  • If sharps are found on leased land (business, schools, residential dwellings, ACT Housing dwellings or Government offices) it is the responsibility of the leaseholder to dispose of them.

References

  • Australian Capital Territory Government (September 1999). From Harm to Hope: ACT Drug Strategy 1999.
  • ACT Government- Department of Urban Services (June 1991). Clinical Waste Manual.

Legislation

  • Clinical Waste Act 1990.
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