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Common Workplace Hazards at Water Treatment Plants

Working in water treatment facilities is essential for ensuring the delivery of clean and safe water to communities and treating wastewater. However, it comes with its share of hazards that demand heightened awareness and safety measures from employees. One prevalent risk is chemical exposure.

Water treatment processes involve the use of various chemicals like chlorine and ammonia, which, if not handled properly, can pose health risks. Workers must receive thorough training on the correct handling, storage, and use of these chemicals, accompanied by the consistent use of personal protective equipment (PPE) to mitigate the dangers associated with chemical exposure.

Influent water from storm drains is captured and processed through sediment filters.

Another significant hazard in water treatment facilities is biological threats. Dealing with water containing potentially harmful microorganisms necessitates stringent measures to protect workers from exposure. Strict adherence to hygiene practices, vaccinations, and the use of appropriate PPE, including gloves and masks, becomes paramount. Workers at some facilities that treat raw sewage may develop Hepatitis symptoms, if exposed.

A raw sewage spill from a 30-year-old pipe removed from abandoned digester.

Additionally, the presence of confined spaces poses a considerable risk. Tanks, pipes, and other confined areas may lead to suffocation, toxic gas exposure, or physical entrapment. Proper safety protocols, extensive training, and the use of specialized equipment are indispensable for workers entering and working in confined spaces to minimize these dangers.

Following confined space permits is critical in facilities to ensure the safety of workers by identifying, assessing, and controlling hazards associated with confined spaces, minimizing risk of accidents and injuries.

Mechanical and electrical hazards are also prevalent in water treatment plants. The machinery, pumps, and electrical systems integral to the treatment processes can result in entanglement, crushing injuries, electrical shocks, or fires if not handled with care. Regular maintenance, adherence to safety guidelines, and the use of safety guards are critical in preventing accidents related to machinery and electrical equipment.

During a facility improvement project large piping is removed using a crane.

Finally, employees should be aware of fall hazards when working in water treatment facilities. Platforms, walkways, and treatment tanks that are elevated pose a serious fall risk, emphasizing the need for fall protection equipment and structural safeguards to ensure worker safety. The overall goal of establishing a safe and secure working environment in water treatment facilities requires an all-encompassing approach to safety, including excellent planning, proper equipment, ongoing training, and constant risk assessments.


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