Highlighting the importance of the ICCS safety guidelines

I sent this out yesterday morning to all our Organisers and Volunteers on the mailing list. I added the hyperlinks and Kate’s photo of the bloody syringe to the email text.

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: International Coastal Cleanup Singapore
Date: Fri, Jun 3, 2011 at 8:05 AM
Subject: The importance of the ICCS safety guidelines highlighted by an article in the Straits Times today
To: iccs@yahoogroups.com
Bcc: Organisers

Dear coastal cleanup friends,

during a recent mangrove cleanup at Kranji Mangrove, the Singapore American School (SAS) found 33 syringes which was unusual for a mangrove site. This was highlighted by their teacher in charge, Kate Thome, at a talk to her students. This was subsequently (and helpfully) reported by The Straits Times in the article published this morning which I add below.

bloody syringe
Photo of bloody syringe at Kranji Mangrove by Kate Thome.

In this cleanup, the discovery of the syringes was a non-event because of the good preparation of the SAS students and the familiarity of the NParks officers overseeing the cleanup.

Well Kate Thome is no stranger to all this as she is also the founder of the ICC programme in Singapore, which she started in 1992 through the Nature Society (Singapore). When I conducted my first mangrove cleanup in 1997, I still remember that this was one of the issues which Kate clearly highlighted to me (amongst many others). She warned that it would definitely appear on beaches and indeed, we regularly turn up 30-150 syringes each year during the ICCS (our annual results are all online). So precaution to participants have long been a part of the standard safety briefing which I inherited when I started running the programme in 2000, e.g. see: http://coastalcleanup.nus.edu.sg/participants/

The original US guidelines were already mature by the time Singapore adopted the programme in 1992. But guidelines can be just words to some. In the early years Kate was a strong advocate of safety. I guess as a mum and teacher, this was second nature to her!

We have continued that tradition of exhortation in ICCS. We tell Organisers that at the very least in their first year, they must aim to be safe and efficient, i.e. take care of participants and get that data submitted. This will be our 20th year of the ICCS and we will be reminding Organisers to be well prepared for their responsibility and for volunteers to be mindful of the safety briefing conducted that very morning.

As the programe has grown to see more than 3,000 volunteers participate annually (e.g. 3.500 this year: http://iccs-status.rafflesmuseum.net/), in recent years, we added two items to the ICCS calendar:

The annual ICCS Workshop (July) for Organisers highlights and revisits issues about safety, management, data and education. I am glad to see Organisers meet, discuss and share stories with Zone Captains at these event. It is a useful way to remind ourselves of the issues and bring about some focus before the event in September.

The annual ICCS Briefing (August) for volunteers covers safety, data and education and Organises are encouraged to send their leaders and assistants to the session. We see 200-300 annually and if need be, can take up to 500 at the NUS Lecture Theatres!

So we have the mechanisms in place to enhance our safety awareness, the way it was done for me back in 1997. So do make use of the opportunity when we send out the registration invitations for these events. In addition to preparing all of us, the Zone Captains, Site Captains and myself enjoy the opportunity to interact and get to know you as it is a fellowship of people who care for the environment and do something about it!

Have a great Friday everyone and a lovely weekend!

Cheerio!

Sivasothi a.k.a. Otterman


N. Sivasothi
Coordinator, International Coastal Cleanup Singapore
w: http://coastalcleanup.nus.edu.sg/
b: https://coastalcleanup.wordpress.com/
e: coastalcleanupsingapore@gmail.com


Used syringes: Over 30 found in swamp,” by Kimberly Spykerman & Jalelah Abu Baker. The Straits Times, 03 Jun 2011. Students at Kranji cleanup find syringes with needles attached in single largest haul

“The syringes were found by Singapore American School student volunteers in a Kranji mangrove swamp, along Kranji Nature Trail. NParks said this was the biggest number of syringes found in a single cleanup session. “

STUDENT volunteers on a coastal cleanup of a Kranji mangrove swamp on May 24 found litter more sinister than the usual plastic bottles and food packaging – more than 30 used syringes, with needles still attached.

The National Parks Board (NParks) could not confirm whether the syringes were found clustered together or scattered across the area, but said this was the biggest number of syringes found in a single cleanup session.

NParks director of conservation Wong Tuan Wah said it is usual to find a syringe or two in each cleanup, but small items such as food and drink packaging or large items like refrigerators are more typically part of the haul.

When contacted, the Singapore American School (SAS), whose students made the find, declined comment. It would say only that its students are briefed on the precautions to take on such cleanups and are under constant adult supervision.

It is understood the students did not touch the syringes, but had alerted an NParks duty officer.

Mr N. Sivasothi, coordinator of International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (ICCS), which has worked with SAS on such trips to the mangroves for the past 20 years, suggested that the syringes could have been washed up, rather than the result of a gathering of drug abusers in the swamp.

‘The probability of recreational drug users going to the mangroves is very low. At night, it’s very dark, and that part of the Singapore shoreline is not very hospitable,’ said Mr Sivasothi, a researcher at the National University of Singapore whose area of interest is mangroves.

The ICCS, which organises coastal cleanups, finds between 30 and 150 syringes a year, most of them on the shores of what are known as ‘recreational’ beaches, such as East Coast Park and Changi, he added.

NParks said its officer-on-site during cleanups requires all volunteers to put on the rubber boots and gloves provided before each exercise.

Doctors The Straits Times spoke to said the possibility of infection is high if one is pierced with an infected needle.

Khoo Teck Puat Hospital senior consultant Christopher Willis said: ‘The most practical way to deal with this is to look around for an empty plastic bottle with a cap, then carefully deposit the needles into the bottle and close the cap.

‘If you happen to be near a hospital or clinic, you can deliver the bottle to health-care staff, who will dispose of it.’

It is also safe to deposit the bottle in a rubbish bin, he added.

The Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) advises members of the public not to handle syringes or needles that they suspect to have been used for drug abuse. The police should be alerted, it said.

Drug abusers here do not commonly ‘shoot up’ their fixes, but anyone caught with syringes intended for abusing drugs faces up to three years’ jail or a $10,000 fine, or both.

The CNB said: ‘We would like to warn the public that intravenous abuse of drugs can lead to potential medical complications such as hepatitis B and hepatitis C, HIV infection and limb gangrene.’

kimspyke@sph.com.sg
jalmsab@sph.com.sg

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