SA Government enforces stricter sharps container regulations after 8-year-old girl pricked finger

SA Government enforces stricter sharps container regulations after 8-year-old girl pricked finger

SA Government enforces stricter sharps container regulations after 8-year-old girl pricked finger

Updated 5 February 2018, 13:00 AEDT

Regulations around sharps-disposal facilities are tightened in South Australia, following an incident where an eight-year-old girl was pricked by a used syringe.

Regulations around sharps-disposal facilities have been tightened in South Australia, following an incident where an eight-year-old girl was pricked by a used syringe.

The child's mother Simone Percy stopped at a service station with her daughter Anika for dinner and a toilet break last year.

"I took my daughter into a toilet cubicle with me and while I was actually on the toilet she said, 'Mum, what's this yellow box on the wall?' and just ran her hand over the top," Ms Percy told ABC Radio Adelaide.

"It was a sharps box and it was so overflowing that she was actually pierced by a sharp that was in the box."

Ms Percy said the container was fastened less than a metre from the floor, did not have any signage attached to it, and was full with upward-facing needles.

"When it happened we thought surely there's been some breach of regulation," she said.

"But that's when we discovered that it was one of those areas that had slipped through the cracks."

Ms Percy said her daughter required three months of testing before she was given the all-clear from any cross-infection.

Incident highlighted 'gap' in code of practice

Health Minister Peter Malinauskas said the family's experience had demonstrated a "gap" in the health department's sanitation code of practice.

"We've been able to substantially change the regulations around sharps-disposal units [which] hadn't been updated for some time," he said.

"We've been able to change the regulations to put a mandated minimum height of the unit on the wall [and] labelling around the unit, but also [adjust] the type of unit itself, to ensure that children aren't vulnerable to going through the types of experiences that this family did.

"There will be a transition period so that existing facilities can be brought up to speed, and likewise new facilities will have to comply with the regulations from their implementation."

Balance needed for sharps container users: Health Minister

Mr Malinauskas said he hoped the changes would create safer environments for the community, while still offering accessible disposal services for those who needed them.

"We wanted to make sure we got the balance right between the needs of users, for example people who might be handicapped when it comes to height restrictions, and also the suppliers of these units themselves," he said.

"We've had a lengthy consultation period, but we've also gotten on with the job to make sure we can prevent such an incident from happening in the future."