Starbucks plans to install needle-disposal boxes in some locations after workers reported finding blood and discarded needles and syringes in bathrooms.
The coffee giant’s decision was made to solve an issue that could expose its workers to hazardous health concerns including HIV and hepatitis, a Starbucks spokesperson told USA TODAY.
“These societal issues affect us all and can sometimes place our partners (employees) in scary situations,” the spokesperson said. “Which is why we have protocols and resources in place to ensure our partners are out of harm’s way.”
Amid the nation’s opioid epidemic, more than 3,700 workers signed a petition asking Starbucks to place needle-disposal boxes in high-risk public bathrooms. The workers are campaigning for 4,000 signatures on Coworkers.org, a global platform used to advance change in the workplace.
Starbucks trains its employees on how to safely deal with hypodermic needles, according to Business Insider.
“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,” a Starbucks spokesperson told USA TODAY. “As we always do, we are constantly evaluating our processes and listening to partner feedback of ways we can be better.”
Starbucks is installing Sharps boxes in bathrooms in select markets based on foot traffic, among other factors. Sharps boxes are hard plastic containers that allow people to dispose of needles, syringes and other sharp medical instruments that might otherwise pierce a trash bag.
After facing criticism following the arrests of two black men who asked to use a restroom without making a purchase, Starbucks became attentive to the public needs for clean and accessible restrooms.
In May 2018, Starbucks announced that it would allow the public to use the bathroom “100 percent of the time” following years of loose bathroom regulations.