Garbage collector recalls bloody incident

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

Steve Bartlett
Published on September 17, 2012

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.”

Twitter: @SteveBartlett_