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(CBS) — Starbucks is outfitting some of its restaurant bathrooms with needle-disposal boxes after workers complained about the potential health risk of cleaning up discarded drug paraphernalia.
The company is taking steps to address health worries that include HIV and hepatitis, both of which can be spread by used needles, Starbucks told CBS News in an email. “These societal issues affect us all and can sometimes place our partners (employees) in scary situations,” a Starbucks spokesperson said.
The disposal boxes being added would let people get rid of needles, syringes and other sharp objects that could cut through a plastic trash bag and potentially cut someone.
Nearly 3,800 workers signed a Coworker.org petition calling on Starbucks to take precautionary measures in high-risk bathrooms, with concerns fueled by the opioid epidemic in the U.S.
“Employees risk getting poked, and do get poked, even when following ‘protocol’ of using gloves and tongs to dispose of used needles left in bathrooms, tampon disposal boxes and diaper changing stations,” the petition states.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 70,000 people died of drug overdoses in the U.S. in 2017, with the tally up nearly 10 percent from the prior year.
A study for New York University’s Center for Drug Use and HIV Research found 58 percent of 86 business managers surveyed in New York City came across drug use in the bathrooms of their establishments during the past six months, and 14 percent found someone unconscious, likely due to drug use.
Starbucks last year said it would let anyone use its washrooms after the high-profile arrests of two black men who wanted to use the facilities without making a purchase in Philadelphia stirred controversy.
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