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Jul 13th, 2010
Posted by : Tina

MUG Engineered Solution and Safety Regulations

How are used syringes classified as a hazard?

There are 4 general categories of hazards in a workplace:

  • Chemical
  • Physical
  • Biological
  • Ergonomic

Safety regulators identify used syringes as a Biological Hazard.

WHMIS codes used syringes in Division 3 of Class D (biohazardous infectious materials).

There are over 30 diseases transmitted through blood and bodily fluids, which can be found in a used syringe.

How many used syringes in a manhole constitute a hazard?


Unless you have the incredible ability to identify which of the used syringes are infected, then every single one must be deemed to have a substantial risk of infection.  A single exposure can result in infection.

What should you do if you get a needlestick injury?

When a worker is stuck with a used syringe, they may be exposed to Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, HIV, or one of more than 30 other blood borne viruses. To minimize the risk of acquiring an infectious disease, workers need to go to the nearest emergency room within two hours.

What are employer’s legal requirements with respect to sharps/ used syringes in the workplace?

It is universally recognized throughout occupational health and safety groups that the most effective method of dealing with a hazard is eliminating it.

In British Columbia WorksafeBC ( , OHS Regulations (Section 6.34(1)) for Biological Agents Exposure Control Plan states the requirement for engineered controls to eliminate the hazard.

Labour Canada ( Section 19.5 Preventive Measures states:

(1) The employer shall, in order to address identified and assessed hazards, including ergonomics-related hazards, take preventive measures to address the assessed hazard in the following order of priority:

(a) the elimination of the hazard, including by way of engineering controls which may involve mechanical aids, equipment design or redesign that take into account the physical attributes of the employee;
(b) the reduction of the hazard, including isolating it;
(c) the provision of personal protective equipment, clothing, devices or materials; and
(d) administrative procedures such as the management of hazard exposure and recovery periods and the management of work patterns and methods.


Preventive measures mean all useful, practical and effective methods that make it possible to avoid the occurrence of a hazardous situation. There are multiple methods to help you find solutions to a given problem, but Part XIX of the Regulations has established a hierarchal order: elimination, reduction, protection, and administrative control.

First, try to eliminate the hazard.

Of all the existing prevention techniques, the elimination of a hazard is the most effective.

In the United States the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations Paragraph 1910.1030(d)(2)(i) requires the use of engineering and work practice controls to eliminate or minimize employee exposure to bloodborne pathogens.

Why eliminate the hazard?

Providing employees personal protective equipment such as tongs, gloves and sharps containers while working in a dark, mucky confined space should never be considered an effective method of controlling the sharps hazard.  PPE and Administrative controls do not protect the worker against sharps injuries.

Some estimates show that 30% of needlestick injuries occur when workers are attempting to dispose of the syringe into sharps containers.

WorkSafeBC occupational hygiene officer Gordon Harkness says the risks for manhole workers are serious. “If they are stuck, they can be exposed to blood-borne pathogens, including HIV and Hepatitis B and C.”

Even after exposed workers receive a “gruelling-but-necessary” six-month antiviral treatment, they are still subject to infection, he says.

Yet, as Harkness points out, employers can reduce their overall costs by keeping needles out of workspaces. “Without these devices (MUG Solutions), employers have to put together exposure control plans to decide what to do with discarded syringes,” he says. He calls this process “time-consuming and expensive”.

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