Nearly 70 Dublin binmen injured by syringes since 2011

Dublin City Council paid out €83,779 in related injury claims from staff in recent years

Sixty-seven Dublin City Council (DCC) binmen have been injured by discarded syringes while at work in recent years, according to the council.

Since 2012, the council has paid out €83,779 in 32 personal injury claims from waste-collection staff who had been injured by injection needles.

Last year, 10 Dublin city centre binmen reported being stabbed by syringes left in bins or in sleeping bags on the street. So far this year, one DCC worker has reported a similar injury.

In total, 67 DCC waste-collection workers have been injured by syringes while at work since 2011.

Paddy Kavanagh, a waste-collection worker for DCC, said replacing bin bags or clearing sleeping bags in the city centre had become "very hazardous".

“Every day of the week, you could see three or four syringes,” he said.

The Temple Bar area and any of the inner city's alleys or laneways are particular dangerous when it comes to used needles, he said.

“You don’t know where they’re going to pop up. I haven’t had any now in a couple of weeks, but I nearly got stung one Christmas morning,” he said.

The waste-collection workers are supplied with work gloves.

However, Mr Kavanagh said the gloves were not much good if a syringe tears out of a bin bag.

“There is a better glove, but they’re costly, and you can’t give them to everyone. [The council] give us as much equipment as they possibly can,” he said.

DCC also supplies waste-collection workers with a small needle-disposal box in which they can store any syringes found.

A spokeswoman for the council said: “It is worth noting that such ‘sharps’ boxes are only used in cases where needles are clearly identified or visible on the roads.

“They do not account for the unseen needles that are placed into litter bins or that are swept up by road-sweeping vehicles during the regular sweeping of the city streets.”

Drug users

Tony Duffin, director of the Ana Liffey Drug Project, which provides outreach services to those suffering from drug addiction, said the organisation estimated that at least 400 drug users discard used needles in the city centre every month.

Mr Duffin said a pilot project by DCC to install two special needle-disposal bins, in Wood Quay and St Audeon’s Park near Christchurch Cathedral, has been a success.

“The further roll-out of public ‘sharps’ bins across the city would reduce the amount of discarded ‘sharps’ and keep us all safer from harm,” he said.

Legislation to set up injection centres where drug users can safely use and dispose of syringes passed through the Seanad in May.

The first centre is to be opened in Dublin city centre before Christmas.

Labour Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said the passage of the legislation on injection centres was "historic".

Mr Ó Ríordáin had pushed for the introduction of injection centres in 2015, while minister of state with responsibility for drugs.

“Injecting facilitates internationally have proven to prevent fatal overdoses and greatly reduce blood-borne infections - such as HIV and Hepatitis C.

“No one deserves to die on the streets of our capital city, and the introduction of these centres will put humanity back at the heart of our drug policy,” he said.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is a reporter with The Irish Times