Focus on Safety: Installers Need to Make Safety a Priority

No matter how experienced your staff is, regular meetings and an emphasis on safety are important for any onsite company

Focus on Safety: Installers Need to Make Safety a Priority

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Every person on a job site is responsible not only for his or her own safety, but also the safety of those around them. When safety is the most important goal on the site, everyone gets to come back to work the next day. 

Companies in the onsite/decentralized wastewater industry do not typically have an employee assigned specifically to oversee safety. That means the supervisor or crew leader is often the competent person according to OSHA standards. Workers should always feel free to express concerns about their safety to the crew leader on the site at any time. When they do, the leader should stop, listen to the worker and evaluate the potential safety issue that has been raised. 

Installers must identify critical issues, follow OSHA standards and have a written safety plan that is followed by all. Under these conditions, an accident is an unforeseen incident that occurs while following established protocol, instead of an incident resulting from an unsafe condition on the site.

Studies have been performed to determine the reasons why accidents happen. These reasons include:

  • Rushing: Hurrying to get the job done often results in errors, if not in accidents. Safety procedures are often relaxed or ignored when rushing to meet deadlines.
  • Eyes not on the path: This is often the cause for most slips, trips and falls. This is even more dangerous when poor “housekeeping” results in cluttered work areas.
  • Eyes not on the task: Not keeping an eye on the task at hand contributes to most impact, penetration or splash injuries.
  • Line of fire: Being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Injuries may occur as a result of this and may be in combination with any of the above. 

A comprehensive safety plan prevents accidents by creating a culture of safety for the company and its employees. Components of such a plan include controls categorized as either engineering or administrative.

Engineering controls include observation of sound engineering and maintenance standards. Development of comprehensive procedures and operating instructions can remove significant hazards from any work site.

Administrative controls include clear documentation of expectations and objectives for managers and employees, as well as implementation of training programs designed to anticipate and avoid potential injuries and incidents. Development of an emergency response protocol is absolutely critical. Regularly scheduled safety meetings to review pertinent issues can help to minimize risky behaviors by employees. Compliance with all applicable regulatory requirements is a must. 

Septic installation professionals should understand the possible safety hazards they may encounter, no matter how small the company may be. Many companies in this industry have fewer than 10 employees. It is important that management stresses safety as much and as frequently as possible.

Regular safety meetings conducted on the tailgate of the truck make the crew aware of potentially unsafe conditions on a site. The meeting should include a discussion of appropriate standards that should be followed to mitigate the identified hazards, safety concerns specific to the site and a review of correct emergency response protocol. 

About the author     
Sara Heger, Ph.D., is an engineer, researcher and instructor in the Onsite Sewage Treatment Program in the Water Resources Center at the University of Minnesota. She presents at many local and national training events regarding the design, installation and management of septic systems and related research. Heger is education chair of the Minnesota Onsite Wastewater Association and the National Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association, and she serves on the NSF International Committee on Wastewater Treatment Systems. Ask Heger questions about septic system maintenance and operation by sending an email to

This article is part of a series on safety:


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