State Run Safety Programs Matter

Complying with all the rules of Cal-OSHA may seem like a burden at times. However, there’s a very good reason to be glad California has its own workplace safety and health program to cover public employees. A look at just a few of the many serious accidents in the wastewater industry over the past decade shows that this occupation can be hazardous.

Wastewater Fatalities Abound

In 2013, a worker in Kansas City, MO was repairing a sewer line when a temporary plug gave way and the work area was flooded with water. He drowned before rescue workers could reach him. This was the third year in a row that a water utility company in the “Show Me” state experienced a worker fatality. In 2012, an employee at Missouri American Water died from a fatal injury when a gas-powered saw kicked back as he was cutting up old cast-iron pipe. In 2011, another Missouri worker entered a sewer pipe alone at the Boschertown Sanitary Lift Station and was later found dead from effects of a hazardous air environment.

Perhaps the most famous recent industrial accident was the 2006 explosion at Bethune Point wastewater plant run by the City of Daytona Beach in Florida. Two workers using a cutting torch apparently ignited chemical vapors from a storage tank. The explosion killed both workers and led to a huge chemical spill of about 3,000 gallons of methanol. That’s an example of the kind of accident that place both public workers and the public at large at risk.

What Do These Incidents Have in Common?

There was no formal OSHA investigation. Both of these states (and many more) have no approved state plans to help protect public sector workers. While private employees enjoy the benefits of the federal OSHA program, municipal and city employees aren’t given the same consideration. In states like Florida, following federal safety and health guidelines is voluntary with no inspections or citations to help ensure worker safety.

It’s good to know that California workers have more protection with an approved state plan. However, Cal-OSHA alone still isn’t enough to make workers safe. Finding and correcting problems after an accident occurs is never the best approach. All public sector employers must also do their part to stay proactively compliant. Fortunately, there are many tools available for consultation, education, and communication to make this easier. Contact DKF today to learn more ways to keep your employees alive and healthy.