New guidelines released for biosolids workers
Workers who come in close contact with Class B biosolids on the job have new rules to follow for personal protection. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has replaced Hazard ID No. 10 (HID #10) with new guidelines aimed at reducing the threat of adverse health effects resulting from contact with the materials.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines Class B biosolids as organic residues, resulting from wastewater treatment, that may contain pathogens. Federal regulations restrict public access to land that has been fertilized with Class B biosolids, but the EPA does not restrict occupational access to the material. Alternatively, Class A biosolids have undergone further treatment so the concentration of pathogens is so low that their handling and land use are not subject to federal regulations.
NIOSH issued HID #10 in July 2000 following claims by wastewater treatment plant workers in LeSourdesville, Ohio, that they had symptoms of gastroenteritis brought on by exposure to biosolids. HID #10 recommended the use of standard personal hygiene practices and the use of personal protective equipment to prevent potential health problems.
The report was criticized by water quality and biosolids experts who said it implied widespread potential health threats from occupational exposure to Class B biosolids. Critics also said that HID #10 implied that the entire wastewater profession had failed to protect workers. Critics were concerned that the report could be mistaken as a call for the prohibition of all Class B biosolids.
Following the release of HID #10, further analysis by NIOSH of the LeSourdesville plant revealed that the site did not comply with EPA Class B standards and that workers were not using personal protective equipment or practicing good personal hygiene, such as washing their hands when leaving the work site. Analysis also showed that the biosolids in question exceeded pathogen levels required for Class B.
NIOSH has replaced HID #10 with “Guidance for Controlling Potential Risks to Workers Exposed to Class B Biosolids.” The new guidelines stress that those working with Class B biosolids should avoid eating, drinking, smoking and chewing gum on the job. They also should wash their hands thoroughly when they leave the work site, and they should remove clothing and footwear that could transport Class B biosolids off-site.
The new guidelines include a range of worker protection options, including goggles, face shields and gloves. The guidelines also encourage biosolids workers and managers to assess their environments and select the protective measures that are most appropriate for their conditions and levels of exposure.
To download the new NIOSH Guidance in PDF format, visit www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/preprint/pdfs/biosolidsb.pdf. For more information about biosolids and preventive measures, visit www.epa.gov/owm/bio.htm or www.cdc.gov/niosh.