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Sanitation and wastewater treatment

Clean water and maintain safe networks

Possible contamination in contact with wastewater and sludge, dangerous handling at pumping stations, the release of toxic gases… Here are some of the dangers that may concern sanitation and water treatment workers. This requires evaluating the risks specific to each installation and carefully preparing interventions in the networks.

The water and sanitation professions are developing to respond to changes in regulations concerning the protection of water and the environment. The versatility frequently require of workers can expose them to multiple risks. As far as possible, prevention must involve the operator, the intervening company (in the event of subcontracting) as well as the owner of the structures (generally a community) so that the require safety work can be carried out.

Risk Assessment

Responsible for the health and safety of its employees, the employer is require to assess the risks to which they are expose and to seek suitable preventive measures. As the risks vary greatly from one sanitation site to another, a risk analysis specific to each intervention is also necessary. Interventions carried out at the request of a user company must lead to the establishment of a prevention plan.

Main risks of the sanitation professions

Personnel working in wastewater treatment plants, treatment plants, and wastewater networks can be expose to multiple risks, including those relate to:

  • the accident on one level and falls from height in sometimes damp and dark work environments. Near a pond or a pit, they can lead to drowning,
  • to the physical activity and manual handling (picking, lifting rings, replacement of worn parts with lifting stations …),
  • at work alone,
  • travel within the company (risks between vehicles and pedestrians, etc.) or outside (road risk).

 

Many risks, including chemical and biological, in the sanitation professions

The employee is also expose to numerous chemicals (acute or chronic poisoning, explosion, etc.) and biological risks (infections, respiratory or digestive disorders). Regarding the latter, wastewater and sludge from treatment plants are indeed reservoirs for microorganisms (some of which are pathogenic).

Main chemical risks encounter in wastewater treatment in Pakistan

  • Use of chemicals for the treatment of effluents (chlorine, lime, ferric chloride, soda, etc.), and for the release of gases generate.
  • Release of fermentation gas from organic matter (methane or hydrogen sulfide for the most dangerous)
  • Presence of pollutants in wastewater and sewage or cleaning sludge (solvents for adhesives, resins, paints, heavy metals, etc.)

The risks of asphyxiation and poisoning are particularly high in the case of work in a confine environment (little or no ventilation).

Apply the general principles of prevention

Depending on the results of the risk assessment, measures must be identified and implement in compliance with the general prevention principles of the Labor Code.

  • Avoid risks: for example, avoid manual handling, isolate work as much as possible.
  • Integrate prevention into construction or redevelopment projects: for example, isolate storage areas that may produce dangerous fumes, facilitate access to pump motors, pipes, and tanks (for maintenance and cleaning), organize the flow of vehicle/pedestrian traffic.
  • Adapt and organize work: for example, establish schedules that allow tasks to be carried out without haste, alternate between physically demanding tasks and those which are less so.
  • Favor collective protection measures: for example, install lifting means (auxiliary crane, jib crane, hoists, etc.), protections for work at height (work surface with a guardrail, tripod equip with a winch above the pipes, lifeline with fall arrest system, etc.), ventilate close volumes treating effluents, install protective covers on dangerous machines.
  • When collective protection equipment is insufficient or impossible to use, provide suitable PPE (breathing mask, safety shoes, gloves) and, if necessary, gas detectors.

Operators must also train in preventive measures (use of collective protection means or PPE). Certain work situations require special precautions ( interventions in a confine environment ) or specific authorizations (for driving lifting or handling equipment, for example). It is also necessary to ensure that the rules of hygiene are respect: cleaning of floors and tools, shower, washing of hands, frequent change of work clothes, etc.

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