OSHA Precautions for Sewage Cleaning

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All individuals who deal with sewage and waste water cleaning must comply with standard regulations. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, American National Standards Institute and the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification develop these regulations. You will find the regulations in the S500 standard. Most recently revised in 2006, this standard includes procedures and precautionary measures for workers involved with the cleanup process.

Sewage Definition

OSHA, ANSI and IICR S500 standards regulate situations where sewage is present. Sewage is liquid and solid materials that overflow or leak from toilets, broken sewage pipes, city sewers, septic systems and overflowing rivers and streams. Sewage can contain bacteria, fungus, viruses and parasites that can cause a wide range of short and long term health effects, such as diarrhoea, fever, cramps, vomiting and major infections. These standards protect workers who are cleaning, as well as individuals in the affected areas.

Protective Gear

The S500 standards specify protective measures that individuals should take before dealing with sewage cleanup. The standards also specify appropriate protective gear. All workers who deal with sanitation cleanup should be vaccinated against hepatitis A, tetanus, diphtheria and hepatitis B, in the case where blood contact may occur. Indoor environmental professionals will evaluate each situation to determine required equipment for the specific situation. Gear can include gloves, respirators, safety goggles, full-face shields, nonporous footwear and complete protective suits.


Workers should be thoroughly prepared before cleanup occurs. The first aspect of preparation is a thorough inspection of the contaminated area. An IEP conducts this inspection to determine the extent of the damage and designate which materials need cleaned, sanitised or disposed of. After determining the process to complete these tasks, a contract is then negotiated with the building owner and signed before any work may occur. Signage is required around the affected area to ensure the health and safety of untrained personnel. Designated areas are then established for material disposal or relocation after decontamination.


The final step of the regulations for sewage cleanup involves the steps needed for decontamination. This cleanup process, the Pittsburgh Protocol, includes the containment of all sewage in the affected area, including the removal of all liquid and solid material and sanitising of the area. Components of the process include low pressure washing, antimicrobial foaming, agitation and multiple rinses. Testing with a remediation swab occurs at the end of the process to rule out the presence of bacteria and waste.

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