Treatment Plant Safety
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Lessons Learned - Treatment Plant Accidents

One of the best ways to learn is through experience. But experiencing the pain, suffering and cost of an accident is best avoided.

So, let's learn from others' mistakes. Here are some descriptions of or links to actual incidents and accidents at treatment plants. Think about your own plant, and how you can use this information to prevent these same types of

We've left out the names of the people and treatment plants to avoid any embarrasment of legal issues.

Please feel free to submit your story to us so others can benefit.
Type of Accident:  Ladder

Location:  An empty clarifier at a wastewater treatment plant.

Description:  The plant operator was descending an extension ladder to get to the bottom of the clarifier to work on the scraper arms. The ladder, which was not tied off or secured, began to fall away from the walkway against which it was leaning. The operator fell to the bottom of the empty clarifier. Rescue personnel had difficulty extracting operator from the clarifier due to difficult access.

Injuries:  Head and leg injuries requiring hospitalization. Operator fully recovered.

Lesson learned:  Always ensure extension ladder is properly tied off or secured before use.
Type of Accident:  Chemical

Location: Pump Room

Description: Plant operators were using HTH to clean vacuum-assisted drying beds. When it started raining, one of the operators carried the open container of HTH into the pump room and neglected to put a lid on it. When two operators entered the pump room hours later, they were exposed to high levels of chlorine and 911 was called.

Injuries: Temporary respiratory tract irritation. Both operators fully recovered.

Lesson learned: HTH is a dangerous chemical that must be properly handled. Keep container tightly covered when chemical is not in use.
Type of Accident: Fall into Tank

Location: Stabilization tank at wastewater treatment plant

Description: Two operators were preparing to remove rags from mixer blades on a floating aerator. One of the operators had to go back to the office, and advised the other to wait until her return before beginning the work. Instead, the operator stepped onto the floating aerator to begin the work by himself. He slipped on the aerator and fell into the sludge tank, hitting his arm on the aerator on the way down. He was able to climb back onto the aerator and exit the tank.

Injuries: Cut on arm, requiring cleanup at hospital and tetanus shot.

Lesson learned: Work with a buddy on dangerous jobs. Use extra caution on slippery surfaces.
Type of Accident:  Fall from Tank

Location:  Stabilization tank at wastewater treatment plant

Description: An operator was standing on the top rung of a fixed tank ladder, pulling a floating mixer over to the side of the tank for rag removal. The rope used to pull the mixer broke and the operator fell off the tank ladder onto the ground below, landing on both feet.

Injuries: Trauma to knees and ankles. Operator recovered.

Lesson learned: When manipulating equipment from a ladder, secure yourself to the ladder. Ensure all ropes, cables or chains used to move equipment are in good working order.
Type of Accident: Chemical

Description: While mixing polymer solution for sludge dewatering, polymer splashed into operator's eye.

Injuries: Eye damage, some damage to vision.

Lesson learned: Always wear eye protection when working with chemicals.
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