Saturday 25 November 2017

Street sweeper loses claim over jab from syringe hidden in rubbish

Rubbish at the corner of O'Connell St Bridge and Burgh Quay in Dublin. Photo: Ray Cullen
Rubbish at the corner of O'Connell St Bridge and Burgh Quay in Dublin. Photo: Ray Cullen

Tim Healy

A man has lost a legal action over being pricked in the hand by a syringe as he picked up rubbish while working as a street sweeper.

Mark McGee (36), St James Road, Walkinstown, Dublin, sued his former employer Dublin City Council over the incident on November 24, 2008, when his hand was pricked by a needle hidden in a bundle of blankets he had picked up from a porch of a closed down business building in Townsend Street.

The High Court heard he had to undergo tests over a number of months for AIDS, HIV and Hepatitis before he got the all-clear.

He was wearing gardening-type rubber and cotton gloves but the needle pierced the cotton and pricked him on the back of his wrist as he was about to put the bundle of blankets into his handcart.

He claimed as a result of the incident, he suffered significant anxiety and fear.  He is no longer employed by the council as he continued to suffer from an acute stress reaction, his counsel said.

He claimed the council was negligent on a number of grounds, including failure to provide him with suitable gloves or to give him adequate health and safety training. He also claimed the council failed to operate an adequate system of inspection of potentially hazardous rubbish to identify potential hazards.

The council denied the claim and pleaded Mr McGee was guilty of contributory negligence by failing to keep a proper look out and failing to use his brush and shovel to pick up the rubbish rather than his hands.

The case had been dismissed in the Circuit Court and was appealed yesterday before High Court president Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns who also dismissed it.

The judge said while it had been argued that there should have been a written safety statement in place for Mr McGee, this would not have prevented the accident.

If there had been evidence from an engineer that a particular type of glove should have been available, that would have created a somewhat different situation for the court, he said.  But as he had no such evidence, he had to confirm the Circuit Court decision.

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