7 Overlooked Safety Issues for Installers

It’s easy to dismiss more basic safety reminders, but failing to keep them in mind can result in injury and derail a workday quickly

7 Overlooked Safety Issues for Installers

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Your tailgate safety meetings probably focus mainly on the major hazards involved with septic installation work like operating heavy equipment and trench shoring. But don’t forget about these more basic safety issues that are easily overlooked.

No. 1 - Ergonomics

Particular care should be taken when lifting heavy or awkward items. Tools and equipment to assist with lifting specific items are available, but the tools must be in good condition. The following steps should be practiced to avoid personal injury:

  • Do not lift more than can be handled comfortably. (OSHA standards set a limit of 50 pounds per person.)
  • Store heavier objects at waist height rather than on the floor.
  • Use the buddy system whenever possible.
  • Establish a solid footing and good balance before lifting.
  • Get as close to the load as possible when lifting or carrying.
  • Keeping the back straight, grip the object firmly and use the legs (not the back) to provide lift.
  • Never carry a load that is too large to see over or around; use a hand-truck, cart or dolly instead.

No. 2 - Smart phones 

Cellphones can be lifesavers in an emergency. However, casual use on the job site is a tremendous distraction. If a company has no official policy regarding cellphone use on the job, workers tend to make and receive calls without regard to the consequence. This effectively becomes the policy and is a potential safety issue. Company policy should clearly indicate that casual cellphone use is not approved during work time. The policy should also address earphones and personal music devices since use of these on the site is clearly inappropriate. 

No. 3 - Terrain

Nonlevel surfaces, slopes and ditches are the norm on sites where systems are being installed. Workers can trip and fall. Equipment can become unstable and tip over. Both the operator and those on the ground must be aware of this and position themselves to avoid injuries. Open access ports should be taped off or barricaded to prevent falls.

No. 4 - Vegetation

Trees can also be a hazard. Branches can whip back and cause serious injury. Trees may fall, especially if vegetation near them was removed prior to construction. Look overhead for large dead branches that may fall. Poisonous and rough vegetation are typically found in wooded areas but can be an issue on any site. Poison ivy, poison oak, berry bushes and thorny vines are examples. It is important to be able to identify particular plants that may pose hazards.  

No. 5 - Insects and snakes

Look for biting or stinging insects such as bees, hornets, wasps, scorpions, black widow spiders, brown recluse spiders, mosquitoes, biting flies or fire ants. Insect repellant should be available to ward off mosquitoes that may carry infectious disease. If any employees are subject to anaphylactic shock as a result of a bee or hornet sting, this information should be common knowledge among crew members. Kits for administering this particular type of first aid should always be available and someone on-site should be familiar with how to respond to such a situation. 

Snakes, whether poisonous or not, can surprise employees and result in injuries. If an employee is bitten by a poisonous snake, prompt first aid should be administered followed by seeking professional medical attention.

No. 6 - Weather conditions

Excessive heat and cold cannot be ignored as they can cause severe illness or even death. Hydration is important no matter what the season and clean drinking water must be available at all times. 

Excessively wet or dry soil conditions influence excavation activities because of their effect on soil stability. Heavy downpours that occur on the day of installation will obviously shut down the job, but a downpour that occurred the day before must also be considered. Continuing work during electrical storms is never advisable. 

No. 7 - Crew health conditions 

It is important that when working on job sites supplies are available to assist with known health conditions. This could include have an Epi-Pen for an employee allergic to bees or a high carbohydrate snack for someone with low blood sugar due to diabetes. 

About the author
Sara Heger, Ph.D., is a researcher and educator in the Onsite Sewage Treatment Program in the Water Resources Center at the University of Minnesota, where she also earned her degrees in agricultural and biosystems engineering and water resource science. She presents at many local and national training events regarding the design, installation and management of septic systems and related research. Heger is the President-Elect of the National Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association and she serves on the NSF International Committee on Wastewater Treatment Systems. Ask Heger questions about septic system design, installation, maintenance and operation by sending an email to kim.peterson@colepublishing.com.

This article is part of a series on safety:


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