it lawful for us to place sharps boxes in our hostel?
There is a widespread misaprehension that placing sharps boxes
in hostels is unlawful, or exposes organisations to risk of prosecution.
Neither of these fears is true.
There is no legal impediment to placing sharps boxes. They are
not a controlled item of paraphernalia and their possession and
placing is wholly lawful.
The placing of sharps boxes is a practical way of addressing a
health and safety concern. If an organisation can reasonably foresee
that contaminated sharps could be brought in to the building,
then they are obliged to consider how this risk can be managed.
In this context, sharps could include disposable razors and needles.
Methods for addressing this hazard include providing opportunities
for safe disposal, staff training, and awareness raising with
service users. Failure to take appropriate steps to address such
a risk could leave organisations exposed to litigation in the
event of needle-stick or similar incidents.
Some police forces have cautioned against placing sharps boxes,
arguing that this is tantamount to "condoning use on site."
Agencies should be reassured on the following grounds: this caution
is erroneous on several fronts:
the presence of sharps boxes provides a safe point of disposal;
it does not automatically mean that use on site is taking place,
either with or without staff knowledge;
b) even if staff are
aware that injecting is taking place on site, this would not mean
the staff were commiting an offence. As the legislation currently
stands, the person using the drug would be commiting an offence
but the agency would not.
c) while an agency
cannot be prosecuted for having sharps boxes on site, there is
scope for them to be sued should the absence of sharps bins result
in harm to staff, residents or other parties.
Any sharps boxes utilised
in hostels should be "fit for purpose." This will mean
that they are of an appropriate design, properly situated, and
protocols are in place to have them emptied, replaced and transported