Health guidelines and standards for pit emptiers and exhauster operators


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Re: Health guidelines and standards for pit emptiers and exhauster operators

Dear Doreen,

I feel this should be/become part of a larger set of documents that you ought to consider producing -- detailing a "On-site sanitation management system". How effective procedures for pit emptying, etc will also depend to some extent on design of pits/septic tanks, etc themselves, and these could be codified. Specific procedures for pumping, and the transportation activities of the septage management program should be specified in a Manual of Practice. The Septage Program Managers could prepare a Manual of Practice by first reviewing the operations procedures for specific equipment and then documenting all aspects of the day-to-day procedures. These procedures include:

• Scheduling and routing for trucks
• Customer service protocols
• Locating tanks and cleanouts
• Probing tanks to determine sludge levels
• Proper pumping equipment operation and worker safety
• Site control, including post-pumping clean-up
• Transportation requirements, including rules of the road
• Disposal procedures at the treatment facility
• Routine service of equipment – greasing and oiling, minor repairs
• Recordkeeping for all tanks pumped and wastes discharged at the disposal facility

As each program is different and utilizes different equipment, the Manual of Practice is program-specific. A Manual of Practice is an important document since it provides guidance for the equipment operators. Furthermore, it is a valuable a training document for new employees. The Manual can specify set procedures that employees should follow so that their work is done within specified guidelines. The procedures should be recorded in a step-by-step field manual that becomes an addendum to the septage management regulations.
Operating septage-pumping equipment is dangerous.

Operators are responsible for their personal safety as well as safety on the road. Septage is infectious material. It can cause disease if ingested or if it comes in contact with broken skin. Hands must always be washed immediately after contacting septage or tools and equipment that may have contacted septage, and always before eating or drinking. I suggest that septage workers should be immunized for tetanus, hepatitis A, and hepatitis B. Smoking must be prohibited while operating seepage equipment -- septic tanks may generate methane, an explosive gas. Smoking also promotes the hand-to-mouth route of infection. Caution must be used around septic tanks and septic tanks must never be entered. People are killed every year in septic tanks, because tanks are confined spaces that may contain toxic or oxygen-limited atmospheres. Septic tanks also may collapse or break if excessive weight is place on the lid or manhole cover.

I think you will find codes of practice if you patiently search health/public health pages of several countries, including many in Asia. I do remember, for example that the Philippines had developed such a code under a USAID programme.


Sunder Subramanian
International Development and Infrastructure Advisor/Consultant
101/15, Silver Oak Apartment
DLF City Phase 1,
Gurgaon 122002

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  • Doreen
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Health guidelines and standards for pit emptiers and exhauster operators

Dear All,

I currently have the task to develop a set of standards with respect to occupational health issues for pit emptiers and exhauster operators (public and private)for the GIZ water sector reform program in Nairobi. This document will assist in ensuring the safety of these operators during FSM.

Can you recommend any documents or provide me with information that highlights such standards internationally? The document I am currently reading are The Occupational Safety and Health Act, 2007 of Kenya (OSHA guidelines) I have also contacted the Ministry of Labour here in Kenya to send me documents that could assist me in developing these guidelines

I look forward to your input!

Best regards

Doreen Mbalo

GIZ Sustainable Sanitation Programme
Policy Advisor in Bonn, Germany
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH
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