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Stay healthy when working in sewers & drain cleaning

Let’s face it – sewer and drain cleaning is a dirty, nasty business. Every major health concern comes up when you open a drain and start working. Blood borne pathogens, liver-killing infectious agents, microbes, germs, amoebae and viruses can be living and thriving anywhere in a sewer system. But precautions can be taken to minimize and prevent infections, and it’s everyone’s duty to incorporate these simple steps and routines to be sure the job gets done safely.

  1. Get vaccinated. Consult a physician for the best advice and treatment. You should get vaccines to prevent the most common forms of hepatitis, tetanus, and other common diseases you may be at risk for. Tetanus vaccines are good for ten years, so check that your shots are current. Annual flu vaccines are another excellent preventative measure.

  2. Wear safety goggles. If wastewater is thrown from a rotating cable into your eyes, you can be exposed to bacteria and viruses. Dirty hands touching the eyes, ears, or mouth can also spread disease. Safety goggles are also important for more reasons than preventing disease, like protecting the eyes from flying debris.

  3. Wear gloves. Waterproof gloves help provide a barrier between wastewater and any cuts or abrasions on the hands. If you use suede type gloves, make sure they are waterproof or wear lightweight latex type gloves beneath them.

  4. Wear coveralls. The more barriers between your body and the source of contamination, the better. Not only will this prevent infectious diseases, but skin is less likely to be cut when covered.Don't touch! Don’t give microorganisms the opportunity to enter your body! Once your hands come in contact with wastewater, be extremely careful. If you touch your eyes, ears, or mouth, you’re at greater risk for illness and disease.

  5. Cover wounds. A break in the skin is an entry point for microorganisms. Make sure all cuts and abrasions are properly medicated and covered. If you get an injury on the job, treat it immediately and consult a physician.

  6. Clean up. Use hot, soapy water and an antibacterial soap to thoroughly wash your hands and arms after every service call. This is key to preventing infectious diseases. Antibacterial soap or hand wash is a must-have on every sewer and drain cleaning van. The last stand against infection is good old hot water – the hotter the better, ideally in conjunction with antibacterial soap. Clean your hands after every job cleaning sewers and drains, or even after simply handling the equipment.

  7. Take care of your body. A body that’s healthy can fight illness and disease better. Exercise and a balanced diet are smart steps towards staying healthy. We get plenty of exercise on the job, but that doesn’t mean it’s strengthening all parts of our body. A sensible, balanced diet will keep your body working strong. Also, remember to get enough sleep and down time to let your body rest and recover.

Following these steps will help you prevent illness. Getting sick isn’t just a matter of missing work – some diseases we come in contact with can be deadly. Protect yourself and your team by following these simple steps.

Nothing contained here should be considered medical advice. Consult your physician and follow their advice for avoiding preventing and treating infectious diseases.

This post first appeared on the Spartan Tool blog.

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