NEWEA Safety Committee: Wastewater Facility Safety Survey Results for 2012 Work Year

Early in 2013, the NEWEA Safety Committee mailed its annual Wastewater Facility Safety Survey for the 2012 work year to facilities throughout the six New England states. The purpose of the annual survey is to:

  • Increase safety awareness and minimize accidents/injuries.
  • Gather information regarding the status of safety programs at wastewater treatment facilities throughout New England.
  • Collect regional accident and injury statistics and publish them for use by all wastewater professionals to benchmark their safety programs.
  • Identify those areas and activities where accidents and injuries are occurring so that facility managers can better focus their safety efforts.

This survey information helps us to understand where the majority of our losses and challenges are coming from, and may allow us to plan resources for these areas in the future.

For the 2011 work year, 32% of those facilities returning surveys reported at least one accident. For 2012, that rate increased to 40%. A brief summary of the 2012 work year survey data is presented in the spreadsheet on the following page. Please note that accident numbers, types, and causes were not clearly related on all surveys, so the totals differ between the tables.

There were a total of 110 reported accidents involving injuries, with 34 of those causing lost workdays – meaning about a third of accidents reported were severe enough that the employee incurred lost workdays. Those 34 accidents resulted in 808 total lost workdays – a considerable jump from last year’s 620. The body part most frequently injured in 2012 was the leg, in particular the knee. The majority of those injuries were strains caused by slips, trips, and falls. Hand injuries were the second most common and the majority of those were lacerations, or cuts.

Falls from the same level (slips and trips) typically result from an unexpected change in the contact between the feet and the walking surface. Common causes of slips are wet, oily, or icy surfaces. Common causes of trips are poor lighting, obstructed view, clutter in the path, and uneven walking surfaces. Slips, trips and falls can be minimized by good housekeeping (e.g., keep walkways free of ice, snow, water, clutter, etc.) and by wearing appropriate footwear.

We use our hands for so many things that we often take them for granted, but hand injuries can be difficult to repair because of the complexity of the hand. After an injury, the hand may not function as it did before due to loss of motion, dexterity, and grip, and this can affect a person’s ability to complete even the simplest of tasks. Common causes of hand lacerations are failing to use the right tool for the job (e.g., using a screwdriver as a pry bar), tools in poor condition (e.g., cracked or broken handle, dull blade, mushroomed head), hand tools with blades (e.g., knives, box cutters, screwdrivers), contact with metal items such as nails, and failure to wear appropriate gloves.

In addition to providing accident information, many of the survey respondents also expressed common concerns regarding their biggest safety challenges. The list below represents the top concerns:

  • Dealing with an aging workforce (communicating safety and working within physical capabilities)
  • Keeping up to date with training (the availability of affordable classes; finding time to attend)
  • Maintaining compliance with small staffs (assistance is not always convenient or available)
  • Workers not complying with safety policies (not following training in the field)
  • Workers falling, tripping or slipping
  • Confined spaces and manholes
  • Significant storm events

This information helps us to understand where the majority of our losses and challenges are coming from, and may allow us to plan resources for these areas in the future. The Safety Committee is pleased to have provided this information and we hope that members find it useful. As expected, the survey highlighted the fact that accidents are a reality in our facilities, and that additional efforts are needed to improve our safety programs and protect our personnel. The vast majority of these accidents are preventable. We would like again to thank all of the facilities that returned 2012 work year surveys and we strongly encourage all facilities to return the 2013 work year survey (watch for it in the spring of 2014) in order to help us increase the value of its results.

Respectfully Submitted
NEWEA Safety Committee

2012 Safety Survey Results Analysis

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