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The decision to install needle-disposal or “sharps” boxes in Starbucks locations could help prompt change in the restaurant industry, making workers’ jobs safer amid the opioid epidemic
Starbucks is installing boxes for safe disposal of syringes in the bathrooms of certain locations, following workers’ reports of discarded needles and sometimes concerning conditions.
The coffee giant is exploring remedies after employees expressed fears about being pricked by uncapped needles and experiencing related health risks. Starbucks is testing solutions, including installing sharps-disposal boxes, using heavier-duty trash bags to prevent needle pokes, and removing trash cans from certain bathrooms.
“These societal issues affect us all and can sometimes place our partners (employees) in scary situations, which is why we have protocols and resources in place to ensure our partners are out of harm’s way,” Starbucks representative Reggie Borges told Business Insider.
As of Wednesday, more than 3,700 people have signed a petition on Coworker.org, calling for Starbucks to place needle-disposal boxes in high-risk bathrooms.
“My coworkers and I had all experienced needles left behind in the bathroom, store, and even in our drive-thru,” said one person who signed the petition after working at a Starbucks location in Lynnwood, Washington, for three years. The three Starbucks employees who spoke with Business Insider for this article asked to either remain anonymous or to be referred to by only their first name, in order to speak frankly.
“My primary fear when I worked there would be taking out the bathroom garbages,” the former employee, who quit in 2018, told Business Insider. “I was terrified that if I went to take the bag out, I would get poked by a needle I didn’t know was there.”