"Hard enough to do the job without any harm happening to you because it's a tough job," Safety coordinator for the Paragould Public Works Department, Keith Harvey told Region 8 News. He said when you add things like needles and glass that are improperly disposed of into the mix, it causes more risk for his workers.
"And our guys don't know. They're picking up thousands of bags a day, just grabbing them five, six at a time," Harvey said.
When they do that, they run the risk of being pricked or cut. Two sanitation department workers were recently punctured by needles while on the job.
"One of 'em was in a garbage bag. Of course, you couldn't see it. It was improperly capped and the not put in a container and that happens quite a bit," Harvey said. "He was just carrying the bags to the truck and got punctured."
The second employee was injured two months later.
"Of all luck, a needle, didn't even have the plastic parts, just the needle, and it was a big one... it went completely through his boot and punctured his foot," Harvey explained.
Harvey said this kind of thing is scary to his employees. "They're a little upset because it's on their mind," Harvey said. "AIDS is the worst case scenario."
Employees can also be infected with hepatitis when coming into contact with used needles. If that happens, employees must have follow up tests at six months and a year after injury to make sure they didn't get communicable diseases.
Harvey said this also hurts his department. "If a man's off, we've gotta replace him because the trash has got to go every day."
Harvey wants people to keep in mind that just because they throw something in the trash, doesn't mean someone else won't have to handle it.
"Everything known to man goes in the garbage trucks. Most people don't give a thought," he said. "They don't mean us any harm. They just don't think about it."
Harvey wants Region 8 Residents to know that after capping hypodermic needles when you're done with them, place them in something like a Haz-Mat container or even an old milk jug. Harvey said labeling bags if they have broken glass in them is also helpful to his employees.