Garbage collector recalls bloody incident

Steve
Steve Bartlett
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Sanitation worker is taking extra care to avoid bags with dangerous items

Jamie Thompson was oozing blood over an east-end sidewalk and was getting weaker with every drop lost.

The City of St. John’s employee had been cut by a broken wine glass that had been placed in a garbage bag.

At first he thought it was simply a scratch, but as the blood spilled from his forearm, he knew it was more serious.

He nervously paced back and forth.

“I walked (30 feet or so) twice, and there were pools of blood everywhere,” Thompson recalls. “I stopped.”

He was in panic mode and didn’t know what to do.

He called out to a passing letter carrier for help.

They stopped the bleeding as best they could and Thompson phoned his foreman, who sent an ambulance.

The cut wasn’t long, but it was deep.

A doctor sewed it up with six stitches, however a vein had been cut, which explains why Thompson lost was he estimates to be a couple of pints of blood.

In fact, there was so much blood the city later used a bag of Absorbal to clean it up.

At the hospital, the physician said Thompson was lucky the vein wasn’t severed.

The puncture was bandaged up and he was sent home. Thompson didn’t return to work until almost two weeks later, on Monday past.

What happened illustrates the importance of proper glass disposal, and he says that’s why he agreed to share his story.

Paul Mackey, director of public works with the City of St. John’s, says the incident was serious, and could have been worse.

He says glass is among the hazards garbage collectors face every day and he stresses the importance of proper packaging so that it’s safe for collectors.

“People have got to realize somebody has to pick that up, not knowing what’s in it, and handle it,” says Mackey.

He asks that people put glass, or pointed objects like needles, in a puncture-proof container.

If that’s not practical, he suggests placing glass in a strong, clearly marked cardboard box so the collector has some warning and can take precautions.

“Most people say they didn’t realize (they had to do that) or whatever, but it’s too late after someone gets injured,” Mackey says.

Thompson has worked for the city for four years and says he’s been cut before, but never as badly.

He wants people to take the precautions Mackey suggests, and he also likes the idea of clearly labelling garbage with glass in it.

“If it has a label, we’re going to be extra careful with it,” he says.

Thompson, stitches visible on his forearm, says he was extra careful with the bags he handled after going back to work earlier this week.

“I was very apprehensive,” he says.

“I was a lot slower than what I was (before) because I was analyzing pretty much every bag, especially the ones in the plastic cans. I was very cautious of those.”

sbartlett@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @SteveBartlett_

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Recent comments

  • Mary
    September 17, 2012 - 09:19

    I have the most respect for the garbage collectors in this city. We always put broken glass in a beef bucket with the lid taped and clearly marked broken glass.That man could have lost his life because of somebody's laziness and lack of interest in his occupational health, plus loss of full pay because of work related incident. Needles in garbage is another matter, they have to be so careful these days.People stop & think of others sometimes, what if it were one of your family members, it could easily happen to a child passing by with the shards of glass sticking out from the bag. I hope the injured person recovers quickly..

  • JJ Nugent
    September 17, 2012 - 08:46

    Another example of how some people are just plain ignorant of others. Obviously someone has to handle your garbage and that someone isn't going to know what is in there. Glass needs to be wrapped, contained or segregated. Personally, I box mine up and take it to the landfill myself. I have a huge amount of respect for our community services employees, and it frustrates me to see people ignorant of them, whether it's glass in the trash or speeding through construction zones. Step back a second and think about somebody else for a change...

  • Downtownie
    September 17, 2012 - 08:25

    I don't understand why the City can't implement a safe, convenient way to dispose of glass. Until it happens, injuries like this will continue. Lawsuits will be filed and the taxpayers will be left to pay the bill.

  • Robert
    September 17, 2012 - 07:44

    Municipalities can also do their part. My CBS neighbour had a broken pane of glass and went to great lengths to make sure it was wrapped properly so that nobody got hurt. But when the garbage was collected they refused accept the wrapped glass because it was not in a garbage bag.

  • V M Davidson
    September 17, 2012 - 07:31

    While glass recycling would be a welcome step, even cities that do have glass recycling programs (like London, ON, where I moved from) will not take broken household glass - only glass bottles and jars, which are placed in open blue recycle bins which clearly display their contents. Broken household glass still went in the garbage, but had to be wrapped or labeled to prevent injury to sanitation workers. A little common sense goes a long way to protect those who have to deal with our trash. They deserve a safe workplace too.

  • just me
    September 17, 2012 - 07:11

    ya know it is common sense not to just throw glass in a garbage bag.But some of know that common sense is uncommon.People just don't think or just don't care.

  • Karl Kautsky
    September 17, 2012 - 06:46

    Ya know, this would be less likely to happen if the city actually recycled glass. Of course that makes too much sense!