"Employees risk getting poked, and DO get poked, even when following 'protocol' of using gloves and tongs to dispose of used needles," said an online petition.
Starbucks is exploring installing needle-disposal boxes in the bathrooms of certain stores to provide a safe way of throwing out syringes and other drug paraphernalia.
The company's announcement comes after more than 3,000 people signed a petition on Coworker.org calling on the coffee giant to provide a safe way of disposing of needles used for drugs that are left inside bathrooms.
"These societal issues affect us all and can sometimes place our partners (employees) in scary situations," Starbucks said in a statement Thursday.
The company announced in May a new policy that allows anyone to sit in their restaurants or use their bathrooms, regardless of whether they make a purchase.
The online petition says, "Employees risk getting poked, and DO get poked, even when following 'protocol' of using gloves and tongs to dispose of used needles left in bathrooms, tampon disposal boxes, and diaper changing stations."
"Making coffee should not come with this kind of easily detoured risk," it reads.
Starbucks said in its statement it is considering installing sharps containers, FDA-cleared boxes that according to the agency are made from "rigid plastic" and "help reduce the risk of injury and infections from sharps."
The company also said it has "protocols and resources in place to ensure our partners are out of harm's way."
"I can't emphasize enough that if our partners are ever in a position where they don't feel comfortable completing a task, they are empowered to remove themselves from the situation and alert their manager," a Starbucks spokesperson said in the statement.
Needles can be used to inject various drugs, including opioids. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioids contributed to more than 47,000 overdose deaths in the United States in 2017. The states with the most overdose deaths that year were Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky.