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NIOSH investigation of exposures when cleaning and maintaining composting toilets: recommendations for managers and employees.
Parks Recreat 2012 Mar; 47(3):59-60
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducted a Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) at a national park. Park management was concerned about employee exposures when cleaning and maintaining pit and composting toilets. NIOSH investigators visited the park to discuss employees' concerns, observe their work practices and personal protective equipment use, review the park's written respiratory protection program and material safety data sheets for cleaners and bacteria additives being used, and collect samples. They collected personal breathing zone and area air samples for ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, enteric bacteria (an indicator of fecal contamination), and thermophilic actinomycetes (an indicator of microbial contamination found at the higher temperatures needed to compost organic material). NIOSH found higher ammonia concentrations when pit toilets were opened (these dropped quickly upon exposure to the air), compared to when composting toilets were opened. Thermophilic bacteria were present in air samples taken when employees worked with the composting toilets. Hydrogen sulfide and enteric bacteria were not present in the air samples. Investigators noted that work tasks required manual shoveling and lifting and some awkward postures. In addition, employees are at risk for extreme heat, bee and scorpion stings, spider bites, and hantavirus from rodent nests and feces. Lastly, they may be exposed to hepatitis A virus when handling untreated human waste and trash, and to hepatitis B virus while performing other job duties as first responders.
Health-hazards; Maintenance-workers; Outdoors; Sanitation; Employee-exposure; Work-environment; Personal-protective-equipment; Work-operations; Work-practices; Ammonium-compounds; Sulfides; Bacteria; Microorganisms; Organic-compounds; Cleaning-compounds; Heat-stress; Insects; Insect-venom; Hepatitis; Viral-infections; Confined-spaces; Waste-disposal; Waste-disposal-systems; Waste-treatment; Materials-handling; Emergency-responders; Author Keywords: HETA 2009-0100-3035
Journal Article; Lay Publication
Issue of Publication
Parks & Recreation
Page last reviewed: September 11, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division