THE VITAL ROLE OF PPE IN WWTP SAFTEY
Eye hazards are unique in the Water Treatment/Supply sector
An eye injury can be a life-altering event. Chemical burns, embedded foreign objects, welder’s flash, and impact injuries can result in anything from minor irritation to full vision loss. There is also potential exposure to biohazards that can uniquely impact vision and adversely impact a person’s health.
The eyes along with the nose and mouth provide an entry point on the body for contaminants to enter. Whether contacting the pupil or the mucous membrane surrounding it, the eye can easily become a pathway to bloodborne pathogens, viruses, and unhealthy bacteria that make a person ill and change their quality of life.
We have all heard the statistics: 2/3 of all preventable eye injuries occurred because of the lack of wearing the correct, or, for that matter, any eye protection. With our vision and our health at stake, it can be difficult to understand why eye protection is not worn more often.
Protecting Workers from Biological and Chemical Risks
Workers employed in wastewater treatment plants are at risk of exposure to both biological and chemical hazards present in the incoming wastewater. There is a broad range of chemicals potentially present including detergents, household cleaning agents, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, herbicides, and industrial chemicals. Workers may be exposed to microorganisms in untreated sewage that can cause disease (pathogens).
Workers can be exposed to pathogens by dermal contact, inhalation or unintentional ingestion. Affected areas can include the nose, throat, respiratory tract, eyes and other parts of the body directly contacted by wastewater and related waste products. Workers can unknowingly contact pathogens through contaminated surfaces, equipment, clothing or skin, so good personal hygiene, and personal protective equipment (PPE) are essential.
The stages of wastewater treatment prior to disinfection present a significant risk of exposure to pathogens and parasites, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoa and helminths. Maintenance workers tend to have the greatest amount of exposure. Reliance on aging plants and equipment means constant maintenance to keep them running.