Strategies for Wastewater Treatment Facilities

OSHA recently announced there is no evidence to support requiring wastewater professionals to use additional personal protective equipment (PPE) to handle wastewater treatment during COVID-19. Additionally, they noted treatment plants should ensure workers adhere to routine practices focused on preventing exposure to wastewater, including “engineering and administrative controls, safe work practices and PPE” typically required when handling untreated wastewater. 

OSHA currently has no additional COVID-19–specific recommendations for wastewater treatment employees.

In addition to using standard personal protective equipment such as goggles, protective face mask or shield, waterproof gloves, liquid-repellent coveralls and rubber boots, wastewater treatment plants are working to keep wastewater professionals safe by implementing additional practices including 

  • proper use and disposal of PPE training;
  • handling of human waste or sewage training;
  • refresher training on primary hygiene practice, including visual reminders/ signage as reminders to avoid touching face, eyes, nose, mouth, or open wounds when handling wastewater products;
  • opportunities and facilities for workers to wash and sanitize hands throughout shifts;
  • opportunities to remove soiled or damaged work clothes before eating;
  • opportunities to eat designated eating-only areas removed from sewage-handling activities.

As the outbreak advances and the COVID-19 virus continues to replicate and evolve, more research into wastewater treatment is needed to fully understand how best to eradicate it while positioning wastewater treatment facilities to continue to provide critical services, protecting essential wastewater workers in the process.