In response to safety concerns from employees, Starbucks has outfitted bathrooms at some locations with needle-disposal boxes. Last year, the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigated the chain and fined it $3,100 after two employees in Eugene were stuck with needles. Needle-disposal boxes have been added to locations in at least 25 domestic markets, Business Insider reports, and Starbucks intends to have such boxes added to bathrooms anywhere considered necessary. The needle-disposal boxes are needed because trash bags are not safe for the disposal of sharp objects, so employees and staff risk being pricked. If they are, they have to take medication to protect themselves against HIV and other viruses.
Needle-disposal boxes have been called for by 5,000 employees who have signed an online petition asking that they be installed to protect both employees and customers. Business Insider spoke with Starbucks employees who expressed support for the move, with one Seattle worker telling the website that “the biggest and boldest move that Starbucks leaders can do right now” is to face the potential negative response and install needle-disposal boxes nationally. Some employees say the issue became worse after Starbucks started its open-bathroom policy last May, though not all agreed with this assessment.
This action comes at a time when America is experiencing a drug epidemic fueled by the opioid crisis, with 702,000 Americans dying from overdoses from 1999 to 2017. A record amount of Americans were killed by drug overdoses in 2015 when 52,400 people died, then again in 2016 when 63,000 people died, and then again in 2017 when 70,000 people died.