For any organization that involves transportation, the responsibility for occupational health and safety doesn’t stop at the door. The logistics of road safety are complex since workers and the public may both be exposed to a very wide variety of dangers. Since the wastewater industry often transports hazardous materials over the road, a spill can have serious ramifications.
Kittitas Accident Highlights Environmental Risks
A spill from a semi-truck into Swauk creek in Kittitas County (Washington) made the news recently because of the nature of the material being transported. The truck was hauling 30 tons of Class B biosolids when it overturned and dumped half its load (30,000 pounds) onto the ground and into the creek. The material is non-toxic but it is considered a biohazard because it contains detectable levels of pathogens.
Public health officials were concerned that fecal coliform bacteria in the biosolids would pose a health risk to nearby humans and animals. Biohazard cleanup crews spent 24 hours using two vactor trucks to suction up the sludge. Fortunately, initial testing of the waterway above and below the spill site found only a low level of bacteria present. Additional testing will be done to monitor the situation and determine if further hazard abatement is required.
Workplace Safety on the Road
An investigation into the cause of the accident may reveal ways to limit the likelihood of a similar incident in the future. But even the best safety plan can’t entirely eliminate vehicle accidents. Fortunately, the quick response time in this case indicates that the process in place for reporting and responding to a biohazard spill was effective.
For a wastewater agency, having a plan for emergency response to limit environmental damage is an important part of a workplace safety strategy. Being able to demonstrate compliance in responding to an accident reduces the risk of facing fines and penalties from OSHA on top of the cost of cleanup and any fines from the EPA. If you haven’t reviewed your emergency response for biohazard spills on the road recently, let us know. DKF solutions can help.