NEWEA Safety Committee
Wastewater Facility Safety Survey Results for 2016 Work Year
Early in 2017, the NEWEA Safety Committee emailed its annual Wastewater Facility Safety Survey for the 2016 work year to facilities throughout the six New England states. The purpose of the annual survey is to:
- Collect regional incident and injury statistics and publish them for use by all wastewater professionals to benchmark their safety programs,
- Identify those areas and activities where injuries are occurring so that facility managers can better focus their safety efforts,
- Gather information regarding the status of safety programs at wastewater treatment facilities throughout New England.
For the 2015 work year, 41% of those facilities returning surveys reported at least one incident. For 2016, that rate decreased to 33%. There were a total of 31 injuries reported, with 11 of those causing lost workdays. This means that almost one third of all incidents reported were severe enough that the employee incurred lost workdays. Those 11 injuries resulted in 180 total lost workdays.
The body part most frequently injured in 2016 was the hand. The majority of those injuries were lacerations caused by “struck against” injuries (e.g. cleaning pump or machine, moving equipment, opening hatchway, improper use of tools, etc.).
Arms/elbows/wrists were the second most common and the majority of those were strains and sprains injuries (e.g. slipping on ice, improper lifting technique, improper material handling, etc.).
Machine guarding and safety gloves are common ways to approach hand safety hazards such as using tools, operating equipment, handling rough materials and chemicals, and stacking and storing objects. In addition to these safeguards, make sure to take a moment to think about the task you need to perform and the potential hazards involved. What if the knife slips while I am stripping this wire? Have I been properly trained in the operation of this powered hand tool? Am I standing on a stable surface that is suitable for this task? Have I completely de-energized the piece of equipment I’m about to install or repair? Am I wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for the current task? By analyzing the potential hazards you could face, you will be better prepared to choose the appropriate means to protect yourself.
In addition to providing incident information, many of the survey respondents also expressed common concerns regarding their biggest safety challenges. The list below represents the top concerns:
- Avoiding complacency and increasing situational awareness during daily job tasks
- Aging workforce
- Keeping up-to-date with required safety regulations
- Funding to keep safety equipment and employee training up-to-date
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 incidents are preventable. We would like to once again thank all of the facilities that returned 2016 work year surveys and we strongly encourage all facilities to return the 2017 work year survey (watch for it in the spring of 2018) in order to help us increase the value of its results.
NEWEA Safety Committee