The health hazards associated with the treatment of waste-water and specifically sludge handling should not be under-estimated. It is the responsibility of the supervisor and the operating staff to acquaint themselves of the dangers and to take the necessary steps to avoid them.
A wide variety of disease-causing organisms are present in both the liquid phase and the sludge stage. Amongst these are salmonella, shigella and vibro that cause diarrhoea and other intestinal tract problems. Viruses are also usually present in waste-water sludges. Amongst these are viruses causing infectious hepatitis, poliomyelitis, sore throats, gastroenteritis and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which can cause AIDS. Protozoa such as entamoeba and giardia that cause intestinal distress are also common in waste-water treatment works. Helminths, such as ascaris (roundworm), taenia (tapeworm) and trichuris (whipworm) are also part of the bio-breakdown process but the ova of these can pass through the body and are fairly resistant to normal treatment processes including anaerobic digestion. Very high counts are usually found in sludge. The ova can survive in sol for several years.
Basic health hygiene rules apply when working in waste-water treatment plants; always wash up properly after working or handling any part of the waste-water treatment system or products. Try to avoid touching your face without washing your hands. Refrain from smoking whilst on the works, it is very easy to ingest disease-causing organisms. Protective clothing is an absolutely essential while working in a waste-water treatment plant especially while working with liquid sludges. Most of the guidelines associated with waste-water treatment are common sense. If one is not sure, every plant should have a code of health and hygiene that can be checked upon to see every health aspect associated with the waste plant.
All waste-water treatment works are classified as factories and must have first aid kit available in-case of accidents. The location of these first aid kits should be prominently displayed as well as the name of the first aid officer assigned to a specific section. It is recommended that all senior operating staff must have completed a basic first aid course. All open wounds should be treated by a doctor and it is important to receive a tetanus injection occasionally due to the types of bacteria workers are exposed to. As a general rule no scratch or cut is too minor to receive proper treatment.