Safety Bulletins

Finding discarded needles

More and more of us are finding evidence of drug use around our car parks, residential streets, public areas, leafy parks, and site access gate ways on a daily basis.

Not only are discarded needles and drug paraphernalia a significant risk to our health, most people are not qualified or equipped to remove them safely and for as long as they remain there, they pose a risk to others.

There are specialist cleaning services deployed by local councils that deal with discarded needles and drug paraphernalia on a regular basis, so here’s what to do if you come across any used needles or drug paraphernalia.

What should you do if you find a used needle?

If you come across a used needle in a public place, you must contact your local council, they will arrange the removal and disposal of any discarded syringes and other drug related items.

One of the easiest ways to log your unsavoury and potentially hazardous finding is to visit, input the postcode and a link to the relevant local council will be shown. A search for "needle" should then locate the appropriate page for you. Many councils also have an App.

Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to move the drug paraphernalia yourself as you are at risk of infection or bloodborne pathogens.

It’s also a good idea to alert any people nearby to the risk and ask them to stay away from the area and tell them that you have already reported the issue, so no further action needs to be taken.

What should you do if you injure yourself with a used needle?

If you pierce or puncture your skin with a used needle, follow this first aid advice immediately:

  • encourage the wound to bleed, ideally by holding it under running water
  • wash the wound using running water and plenty of soap
  • do not scrub the wound while you're washing it
  • do not suck the wound
  • dry the wound and cover it with a waterproof plaster or dressing

You should also seek urgent medical advice as you may need treatment to reduce the risk of getting an infection.

Will you need any treatment?

If your healthcare professional thinks you're at low risk of infection, you may not need any treatment.

If there's a higher risk of infection, you may need:

  • antibiotic treatment – for example, if you have cellulitis (infection of the skin)
  • vaccination against hepatitis B
  • treatment to prevent HIV

If there's a high risk of infection with HIV, your healthcare professional may consider treatment called post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).

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