Improving the conditions of sanitation workers: the missing link in the sanitation chain (FSM5 thematic papers)

1177 views

  • paresh
  • paresh's Avatar
    Topic Author
  • Budding WASH researcher, especially interested in governance, public policy, finance, politics and social justice. Architect, Urban & Regional planner by training, Ex. C-WAS, India. I am a patient person :)
  • Posts: 127
  • Karma: 7
  • Likes received: 59

Improving the conditions of sanitation workers: the missing link in the sanitation chain (FSM5 thematic papers)

Dear all,
This post is based on the third of the 4 thematic papers  that emerged from presentations as FSM5. The thematic papers, written by Kathy Eales and Isabel Blackett are available here:   https://www.susana.org/en/knowledge-hub/resources-and-publications/library/details/3741

There is no denying that the conditions of sanitation workers need to be improved. But it is important to understand that it goes beyond their health and safety concerns. A World Bank study identifies following challenges
  • Social - stigma, persecution and discrimination. No opportunities for career progression
  • Legal and institutional - largely informal rights, lack of legal protection and regulation, legislation not implemented, few collective associations and no unions
  • Financial - poor pay, lack of job security, difficulty investing in protective gear and mechanical equipment, covering O&M costs, no access to benefits like pension funds or health insurance
  • Health and safety - Exposure to disease causing pathogens, illnesses due to toxic chemicals, asphyxiation due to toxic gases, physical injuries, possible death
The presentations at FSM5 suggest that the conditions can be improved by
  1. Training - to assess hazards on the job, assess impacts of their action on their health, others and the environment, ways to reduce risks involved in handling sludge, practical training of handling every situation they are likely to encounter
  2.  Greater professionalisation - Certification, vocational training programs, SoPs and safety protocols
  3. Using licencing, legislation, and regulation to enforce safety protocols and SoPs
Some of the examples where such a change has been brought about include (the paper includes more examples) 
  • Lusaka -  where teams of manual emptiers have been formalised, trained and equipped to serve in parts of the city. The workers have uniforms, better quipment, higher incomes and regular medical check-ups
  • Durban - similar to Lusaka + rights are safeguarded through legislation and union oversight. Importantly, their status as formal employees earning a fair wage has done much to counter stigma often associated with sanitation work
Offcourse, a formal, safe service will cost more. Thus, educating customers to pay more for a formal safe service is an essential accompaniment when sanitation services are formalised

I welcome you all to post examples you know (from your own work or otherwise) how recent sanitation service improvement projects have dealt with improving conditions of the sanitation workers or if they have missed it altogether.

Regards
paresh
Paresh Chhajed-Picha
Researcher at Indian Institute of Technology - Bombay, India
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Twitter: @Sparsh85
Wikipedia: Sparsh85

Co-moderator of this discussion forum
(Under internship contract with Skat Foundation funded by WSSCC)
The following user(s) like this post: katemedlicott, AjitSeshadri, ABDOUAZIZ
You need to login to reply
  • AjitSeshadri
  • AjitSeshadri's Avatar
  • Marine Chief Engineer by profession (1971- present) and at present Faculty in Marine Engg. Deptt. Vels University, Chennai, India. Also proficient in giving Environmental solutions , Designation- Prof. Ajit Seshadri, Head- Environment, The Vigyan Vijay Foundation, NGO, New Delhi, INDIA , Consultant located at present at Chennai, India
  • Posts: 160
  • Likes received: 29

Re: Improving the conditions of sanitation workers: the missing link in the sanitation chain (FSM5 thematic papers)

Dear SuSanA Members.
Our Co-moderator Mr. Paresh has brought out most of the points for issue of guidelines to be followed Re: Sanitation Workers.
Have seen these operations viz. cleaning sewer lines, accessories, tanks, pumps both on board ships- sewerage ssms and on regular sewer ssms at communities.
They are varied, starting from NSS catering to CTCs with no or minimal flush water to the conventional pour- flush ssm with adequate flushing.

We need to initiate certain fitments or needed adaptations in way of carrying out both preventive and breakdown maintainance works. eg man hole opening to be minm.. 2F by 2F and for detailed clean-up to be made larger, Etc.

It would be in order to take the case of Technicians working at H/T Electric lines, and assess the safeguards and guidance and SOPs followed, these can be compared to assess any additionals are needed.

I will revisit this response to post more detailed notings for the benefit of the Communities.
With well wishes

Ajit Seshadri
The Vigyan Vijay Foundation, Delhi. NGO.
Prof. Ajit Seshadri, Faculty in Marine Engg. Deptt. Vels University, and
Head-Environment , VigyanVijay Foundation, Consultant (Water shed Mngmnt, WWT, WASH, others)Located at present at Chennai, India
You need to login to reply
  • JKMakowka
  • JKMakowka's Avatar
  • Just call me Kris :)
  • Posts: 1000
  • Karma: 35
  • Likes received: 329

Re: Improving the conditions of sanitation workers: the missing link in the sanitation chain (FSM5 thematic papers)

One of the problems with greater professionalization and regulation is that it will stifle growth of this service sector, especially as much of the consumer facing business is likely to be highly cost sensitive. And of course there is the usual question of enforcement and if it not just pushes part of the business into being a "night-time" activity, making the conditions even worse for the workers.

The most promising approach I have seen was a delivery subsidy (payments made upon delivery at treatment site). Maybe that can be at least in part given directly to the workers to boost their income instead of just increasing the profitability of the business? Of course that doesn't work for all kind of sanitation work, but those that involve removal of solids that need to be disposed safely (i.e. work with the worst conditions) could benefit I think.

My guess is that there are a lot of low-hanging fruits for the safety of sanitation workers, such as having multiple overalls that are hygienically washed regularly. You can try to enforce such at company level, but I doubt that this would be very efficient/feasible in many places. But if people have some additional disposable income, most are sensible enough to care about their health to a certain extend.
You need to login to reply
  • paresh
  • paresh's Avatar
    Topic Author
  • Budding WASH researcher, especially interested in governance, public policy, finance, politics and social justice. Architect, Urban & Regional planner by training, Ex. C-WAS, India. I am a patient person :)
  • Posts: 127
  • Karma: 7
  • Likes received: 59

Re: Government of Odisha's a new scheme for Sanitation workers

Dear all,
Government of Odisha has launched a new scheme "Garima" launched by the safety and dignity of sanitation workers that will benefit approximately 20 thousand workers  across 114 ULBs in the state.  See related news items  here   and here

Relevant information from the first piece: 

The scheme aims to identify through state wide survey and register core sanitation workers, mandates registration of sanitation service providers, ensures provision of necessary machines and appropriate PPEs to ensure safe working conditions.
All core sanitation workers will receive skilling and training to improve their skills. Additionally, they will have access to counselling support to acquire new skills and financial support if they choose an alternative livelihood, if they wish so.
Some of the benefits include introduction of special category of wages for core sanitation work, introduction of Risk & Hardship allowance, financial assistance to the families in the event of accident or injury, financial support in the form of House Grant and purchase of two wheelers to the extent of 90 per cent of the cost.
In addition to this, access to EPF (Employees’ Provident Fund), retirement benefits, post service benefits and illness allowance will provide further financial security to the core sanitation workers and their families.
The Government of Odisha will also provide welfare benefits like health and life insurance, disability support, periodic health check-ups, housing, educational support, mobility support and mobile support.


Source: @umcasia tweet

Regards
paresh
Paresh Chhajed-Picha
Researcher at Indian Institute of Technology - Bombay, India
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Twitter: @Sparsh85
Wikipedia: Sparsh85

Co-moderator of this discussion forum
(Under internship contract with Skat Foundation funded by WSSCC)
Attachments:
You need to login to reply
  • Chaiwe
  • Chaiwe's Avatar
  • Independent consultant (strategic planning, project management and M&E in WASH, climate action and, gender and HIV) and Part-time Solid Waste Management Lecturer at the University of Zambia.
  • Posts: 105
  • Karma: 8
  • Likes received: 44

Re: Improving the conditions of sanitation workers: the missing link in the sanitation chain (FSM5 thematic papers)

Hello Paresh and All,

Allow me to point out that in 2018, the World Health Organization launched new Guidelines on Sanitation and Health which aimed at maximizing the health benefits of sanitation interventions. One of the key recommendations in the guidelines related to the protection of sanitation workers who often tolerate degrading, poorly paid, and highly risky working conditions while also being left behind in sanitation policy and programmes.

Here is a small extraction from a dedicated section of the Guidelines on the topic:

 (Chapter 2, recommendation 2b) Occupational health risks should be included inthe risk assessment and management approach and protection should be provided to workers by formal sanitation service providers. Technical protection measures such as phasing out manual emptying and replacing it with motorized systems should be combined with other measures such as appropriate personal protective equipment, standard operating procedures and regular health checks and necessary prophylactic or responsive treatments. 

And a link to the actual document:  www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/sani...ation-guidelines/en/

Some additional  things that can be done ( discussed at the World Water Week )  to improve sanitation workers work conditions especially during such a period when the world is experiencing a global pandemic include:

i. Ensuring regular health check-ups of sanitation workers for symptoms of COVID-19
ii. Expanding the coverage of the insurance scheme to sanitation workers as well;
Here, the coverage of all sanitation workers must be ensured, irrespective of the type of work, or nature of their employment such as regular, contractual, or informal. Moreover, coverage under medical insurance schemes must be ensured for all sanitation workers and their families not covered already. In addition, policy reform, legislation, and regulation that acknowledges and professionalized the sanitation workforce along the sanitation service chain is required.

As highlighted by Paresh , the changes in this regard happening in Lusaka and Durban where there has been training,  formalizing of teams of manual emptying and protecting of workers' rights respectively are steps that other countries should emulate in the quest to improve conditions of service for sanitation workers. 

Chaiwe
Co-moderator SuSanA forum
(Under consultancy contract with Skat Foundation funded by WSSCC)

Chaiwe Mushauko-Sanderse BSc. NRM, MPH
Independent consultant located in Lusaka, Zambia
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Twitter: @ChaiweSanderse

The following user(s) like this post: AjitSeshadri
You need to login to reply
  • AjitSeshadri
  • AjitSeshadri's Avatar
  • Marine Chief Engineer by profession (1971- present) and at present Faculty in Marine Engg. Deptt. Vels University, Chennai, India. Also proficient in giving Environmental solutions , Designation- Prof. Ajit Seshadri, Head- Environment, The Vigyan Vijay Foundation, NGO, New Delhi, INDIA , Consultant located at present at Chennai, India
  • Posts: 160
  • Likes received: 29

Re: Improving the conditions of sanitation workers: the missing link in the sanitation chain (FSM5 thematic papers)

Dear SuSanA Members ,
@ Chaiwe, Paresh et all
wishing well for Sanitation Workers on their jobs.

I totally agree that, we need to bring in rules and regulations ( I can feel many trying to tell me that, rules are in place) 

Then its compliance and when not done, legal actions should be enforced on non compliant members of public.

To be frank, I have literally worked on sewer systems on board sailing ships. 
No doubt it is a dirty and a bit demeaning job, but if the system is to be operated and maintained, all these clean up practices need to be done on time.

Similarly on shore too, in a colony,  sewer systems, the lines need to be de clogged, valves pumps and system cleaned and maintained.
Manual service is needed, we take due care, wear PPEs and perform the work in a safe secured  manner.
We have gas meters and other tell tale gadgets to ensure that the spaces are clear and  gas-free and safe for man - entry.

At one occasion, while a San. Workr was entering a tank for cleaning duties, he placed a few cock roaches - insects,  on the insides of the tank just below the m/h cover. He was observing whether they are alive for say 5 to 10 mts.
They were fine, this gave him confidence and he entered the tank and completed the job.
So in one way, as a Senior person I felt good that the spaces were gas-free and safe.
This test came in very handy, and it was a la " bio assay test "  I have seen in oil tanks, they lower a small bird ( canary) in cage into the tank. If the bird chirps more, it is an indication that its not gas free.. Etc.

I have been wanting the Admin. authorities to make sure that this Sanitation work is to be treated at par with Electric HT work.

Whenver Electricians go for work on thse lines, Proper safe guard is maintained and secured for dangerous work. 

Similarly, for this Sanitation work, too it ought to be followed.
This can be done easily, as all are aware. It is just that the will to that extra care, concern for human workers is lacking.

We need to come a long and steady way for safe sanitation work..

Well wishes.
Prof Ajit Seshadri.
The Vigyan Vijay Foundation. NGO.
Prof. Ajit Seshadri, Faculty in Marine Engg. Deptt. Vels University, and
Head-Environment , VigyanVijay Foundation, Consultant (Water shed Mngmnt, WWT, WASH, others)Located at present at Chennai, India
You need to login to reply
  • raogk
  • Posts: 9
  • Likes received: 5

Re: Improving the conditions of sanitation workers: the missing link in the sanitation chain (FSM5 thematic papers)

Dear Ms Chaiwe, Mr Paresh & Prof Ajit et al
You all have raised very pertinent issues and enlightened us.

In addition, the very indignity and dishonour by the citizens associated with the profession itself is agonizing.
  1. Hence, we also need to work towards approaches which have the potential to feel them honoured and dignified in their profession.
  2. Another is to totally eliminate the practice of actual manual cleaning of the sewage in sewers and manholes which must be put an end to utilizing and generating latest technologies, such as the Bandikoot geneerated in Kerala and being adopted in different parts of India, though sporadically.
  3. Enhance R&D efforts at innovating more of such models as Bandikoot like technologies.
  4. Create awareness in citizens through the medium of curriculum projects etc. in schools to generate empathy and the imperative necessity to transform the status of manual scavengers for positive change in their living conditions, health and safety.
  5. A monitoring mechanism to ensure their occupational health and safety, by regulators such as Central & State Pollution Control Board, so they keep track of the progress of the urban local bodies in their compliance with the relevant regulations. 
  6. Building the capacities at regulatory, planning, implementation and consumer levels on these relevant issues.
We all together have a long way to go in not only in making their professional life easy, but in ensuring they work and live in honour and dignity like all of us.

Warm regards
G Kondala Rao
You need to login to reply
Share this thread:
Recently active users. Who else has been active?
Time to create page: 0.340 seconds