Safety Regulation Equipment for Water & Sewer Construction

The water and sewer industry protects public health and the environment. This industry is responsible for the construction and repair of vital pipelines that bring clean water to commercial buildings and homes as well as sewage removal. There are 15,942 water and sewer line construction businesses in the U.S. and the industry is expected to grow 1.6 percent in 2020 [1].

The Industry At a Glance 

The water and sewer construction industry is a segment of the utility sector and covers the development and repair of all water mains, sewers, drains, aqueducts, pumping stations, treatment plants, and storage tanks. The industry is large and covers new construction, reconstruction, rehabilitation, and repairs of any type of infrastructure that carries water or sewage.  Any structures that are integral parts of water and sewer networks are included in this industry [1].

Typical industry products and services include construction and maintenance of: 

  • Sewer lines and other sewer infrastructure
  • Water mains and other water supply infrastructure
  • Drains
  • Septic systems
  • Sewage and water treatment plants

According to a report by Brookings, there were nearly 1.7 million workers were directly involved in designing, constructing, operating, and governing U.S. water infrastructure in 2016[2]. This industry spans multiple industries and collectively fills around 212 occupations. Some of these positions include electricians, technicians, administrative, management, as well as construction workers. The water and sewer industry touches virtually every place in the world, from big metropolitan markets to smaller rural areas.

Water and Sewer Worker Safety

The people who work in the water and sewer industry face occupational and biological hazards on a daily basis. According to OSHA, hazards in this industry include trench and excavation cave-ins, respiratory dangers, trips and falls, electrical risks, chemical exposure, endangerment from heavy equipment operation, and more [3]. 

An OSHA report from 2009 found that the incidence rate for accidents in the water and sewage industry is 4.1 per 100 workers. Most of the accidents are slips and trips and strains and sprains to the back [4]. The other risk factors for workers in this industry are biological and chemical hazards. Some of these examples of these hazards include:

  • Biological: Contact with viruses, bacteria, and other microorganisms in sewage. 
  • Chemical: Confined spaces containing sewage can contain flammable gases, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and other exhaust gases. 
  • Occupational: Falls and slips, trench collapse, electric shock and arc flash/arc blast, sprains and back pain, respiratory issues, and repetitive motion injuries.

Environmental Hazards of Construction

Construction is a major economic development factor for many nations. According to a report released by the Global Construction Perspectives and Oxford Economics, construction output will grow by 85 percent to $15.5 trillion worldwide by 2030 [6]. Although construction is necessary to provide infrastructure, it does have a negative impact on the environment.

Construction of any type can significantly impact the environment—from excavation, transporting of materials, to waste disposal. Common environmental impact of construction projects include:

  • Fossil fuel usage—includes gas emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, and other waste products.
  • Noice pollution—produced by machinery in site preparation, demolition, and landscaping.
  • Erosion and sedimentation—accelerated when soil is disturbed, left bare, and exposed to wind and water.
  • Waste—demolition waste makes up the majority of the total debris at a worksite. According to the EPA, 569 million tons of construction and demolition debris was generated in the United States in 2017; more than twice the amount of generated municipal solid waste[5].

Fortunately, environmentally conscious construction practices are growing and increased efficiency in energy systems has become a top priority. There are also more products and technology available to help reduce the negative impact construction can have on the environment. 

Use the Right Safety Equipment

Safety for workers and the environment is achieved through proper safety measures and with the right equipment. To protect workers from occupational, biological, and chemical hazards, OSHA encourages employers to[3]: 

  • Provide training and education about the hazards of wastewater and sewage.
  • Place onsite handwashing stations.
  • Provide proper PPE, such as gloves, goggles, a face shield, a water-resistant suit, or a respirator.
  • Provide clean areas for eating and smoking.
  • Keep equipment clean to limit exposures to the disease-causing agents.
  • Keep floors clean and dry to prevent fall accidents. 

To reduce the environmental impact of construction, the EPA recommends employing some of these practices [7]:

  • Using products with recycled content.
  • Use noise protection barriers to reduce noise pollution on job sites. 
  • Laying ground protection to reduce erosion at job sites.
  • Save water by practicing sustainable stormwater management at building sites.  
  • Clean up and reuse developed sites.

The water and sewage construction industry is a vital part of everyone’s lives. Following proper safety protocol and environmentally friendly construction practices will keep employees safe and strengthen a company’s image. 

  1. https://www.ibisworld.com/industry-statistics/number-of-businesses/water-sewer-line-construction-united-states/
  2. https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Brookings-Metro-Renewing-the-Water-Workforce-June-2018.pdf
  3. https://www.oshatrain.org/pages/water_sewer_industry_safety.html
  4. https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/cupebcvotes2014/pages/1551/attachments/original/1457451862/Wastewater_Treatment_Plant_-_CUPE_Occupational_Health_and_Safety_Bulletin.pdf?1457451862
  5. https://www.epa.gov/smm/sustainable-management-construction-and-demolition-materials
  6. http://www.globalconstruction2030.com/
  7. https://archive.epa.gov/recovery/web/html/recommendations.html