- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 10, 2019

Starbucks will start placing needle-disposal boxes at certain locations amid concerns that the coffee giant’s decision last year to open its bathrooms to the public has posed an undue health risk to employees.

Starbucks will install sharps boxes, where syringes can be safely discarded, as well as test other solutions like using heavier-duty trash bags and removing trash cans from certain bathrooms in order to protect employees from contracting infectious diseases, Business Insider reported.

“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 said in a statement.

The decision comes after thousands of people signed a petition demanding that Starbucks “put safe needle disposal boxes in the bathrooms of high-risk areas so that employees are protected/stop getting poked and exposed to HIV/AIDS, Hep C, Hep B, etc.”

A former employee, who signed the petition, told Business Insider that she and her coworkers in Lynnwood, Washington, were routinely exposed to used needles on the job.

“My coworkers and I had all experienced needles left behind in the bathroom, store, and even in our drive-thru,” the employee said.

A current employee from Minnesota provided photos to Business Insider of some of the unsanitary conditions she faced at work. She told the publication that she and other coworkers have encountered drugs, used needles, spattered blood and condoms on the bathroom floors and in the trash.

A current Starbucks manager from Southern California told Business Insider that at least one employee at their location had been pricked by a needle.

The three employees who spoke to Business Insider asked to remain anonymous.

Starbucks said it trains all employees on how to safely deal with hypodermic needles.

“I can’t emphasize enough that if our partners are ever in a position where they don’t feel comfortable completing a task, they are empowered to remove themselves from the situation and alert their manager, ” Mr. Borges, the company rep, told Business Insider. “As we always do, we are constantly evaluating our processes and listening to partner feedback of ways we can be better.”

The decision comes after Starbucks opened its bathrooms to non-paying customers in May. The coffee chain has already installed sharps boxes in certain Seattle locations after three employees complained to local news in October that they came across hypodermic needles on the job nearly every day.

The plan will move forward by installing the boxes in bathrooms in select markets based on foot traffic, among other factors, USA Today reported.

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