Technical Corner

The Rising Risk of Handling Recreational Medical Waste

August 14, 2023

Municipalities are experiencing a high level of discarded medical paraphernalia in public spaces. Recreation departments will need to develop policy and procedures on the topic, as well as include worker risk awareness of contact with these types of waste. Public awareness with regards to what service the community provides will be essential.  Discarded waste on private property may be perceived to be public space (business entrance) and will need to be better defined. Understanding the role of local Public Health is another key element of an effective medical waste collection and disposal plan. Some Public Health offices offer outreach support that includes the placement of Sharps Kiosks – these are large standalone yellow mailboxes where sharps can be disposed by anyone. Strategically locating these collection systems will require research.

Public Health is a valuable resource in assisting facility management in designing staff training plans. Workers need to understand the risk of exposure and how to properly protect themselves. If a worker experiences an exposure to another person’s blood or body fluids, it is important that they be assessed by a health care provider to determine the risk of infection and to get appropriate and timely treatment to help prevent the possible transmission of infections such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C and/or HIV. [More - Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit Sample Information]


  • Sharps - needles, syringes, and other drug related items that could cause a puncture, cut or abrasion, and have the potential to carry infective agents.
  • Bio-Hazardous Material - a material of biological origin capable of causing disease or infection in humans. These materials include blood, human tissue, and cells.
Sample Procedures

All reasonable precautions shall be taken when handling sharps or bio-hazardous materials to ensure the safety of workers and the public.

General Awareness Guideline

  • Supervisors and workers shall be aware of the risks of bio-hazardous material and sharps involved while performing normal duties.
  • Supervisors shall review safe handling procedures outlined in this procedure with workers.
  • Supervisors shall inform new employees of the risk for potential biohazard exposure.
  • Workers shall participate in all training regarding the handling of biohazardous materials, as directed by their supervisor.
  • Workers shall be trained on how to report an exposure incident.

Recreation staff are frontline workers with the public and as such will have a variety of risks associated with these relationships. Issues that were once deemed large population problems can now be found in most Ontario communities. Safely handling medical waste exposure must be included in all operations staff training programs.

    Comments and/or Questions may be directed to Terry Piche, CRFP, CIT and Director, Training, Research and Development, Ontario Recreation Facilities Association

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