While TOMRA NY Recycling LLC may be an unfamiliar name to many Pennsylvanians, anyone who works in the solid waste collection and recycling industry should know about the settlement agreement the company entered into with OSHA. To some, the agreement is an indication that OSHA is working harder toward enforcing BBP standards in the recycling industry.
Bloodborne pathogens, or BBPs, are microorganisms that can infect others through used hypodermic needles, lancets and other sharps. To decrease the risk of needlestick injuries, TOMRA has agreed to give its sorters puncture-resistant gloves and other equipment controls, annual training on OSHA’s BBP standards and vaccinations against hepatitis B, one of the most common BBPs.
In 2003, OSHA warned one recycling facility that the failure to provide hepatitis vaccinations and include sorters into its BBP Program could result in serious citations. In response to a procedure established by another facility in 1993, however, OSHA did not require that sorters be trained in BBP safeguards. The reason was that the procedure called for conveyors to be stopped whenever a needle was discovered; only the conveyor’s supervisor was covered by BBP standards.
OSHA stresses that the risk for needlestick injuries should be assessed on a facility-by-facility basis, not generically. Thus, its engagement action with TOMRA may have resulted from recognizing unique facts.
Business owners are responsible for gauging safety and health risks. When they fail to do so and indirectly cause a workplace accident, they may be held liable by the employee. Victims of needlestick injuries can consult with an attorney about filing an injury claim. The attorney could then hire investigators to check workplace safety conditions, determine if the company’s training was adequate and gather important paperwork.