The latest industry happenings from the desk ofND's editor.

Fatigue Can Pose a Major Risk

Fatigue is the number one accident risk factor for construction workers, and requires better recognition by occupational health and safety managers, research at the University of Sydney in Australia has found.

Dr. Margaret Chan’s research focused on four high-profile oil and gas projects, where she interviewed workers, managers and safety supervisors to establish perceived causes of workplace accidents. All three groups considered fatigue to be the most significant risk factor in workplace accidents.

Chan’s research is the first to identify fatigue as the leading risk factor in a construction environment. Other factors identified were mental stress, failure to follow safety procedures, lack of knowledge, failure to use proper equipment, and fire and explosion. “My research shows previously identified factors like failure to use equipment or failure by individual workers to follow safety procedures are heavily influenced by fatigue. If you eliminate fatigue, you also eliminate other so-called causes of accidents. Previous research shows fatigue can cause performance impairment equivalent to – or greater than – a 0.10 percent blood-alcohol concentration, a level deemed unacceptable for driving a crane or operating dangerous construction equipment or machinery.

“Construction companies need to place greater emphasis on the importance of recovery, a significant moderator of fatigue,” Chan stresses. “Managers should ensure workers take regular breaks from work, and schedule shift rosters to allow the body to adapt to the rhythm. Safety officers should factor fatigue and stress into their regular health and safety audits, and consider them when investigating accidents. Furthermore, workers at risk should be screened for fatigue at regular intervals.”

Some Not-so-harmless Microbes

Relatively harmless microbes that pass through water treatment systems could be allowing dangerous bacteria, such asLegionella, to reproduce in drinking water supplies, researchers have warned following an international study.

Jacquie Thomas, an environmental engineering student in the University of New South Wales Water Research Centre, and Nicholas Ashbolt of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Exposure Research Laboratory, found that the microbes, known as “free-living amoebae,” regularly bypass treatment systems in municipal water supplies worldwide, and multiply at end-use points such as taps, shower heads and water tanks.

While some species of free-living amoebae occasionally can cause serious illnesses, of greater concern is the fact that amoebae can carry bacteria, such asLegionella andMycobacterium, which can cause the potentially fatal respiratory illness, known as community-acquired pneumonia (CAP). Young children and the elderly are most susceptible to CAP.

Thomas says free-living amoebae had been shown to be able to pass through water treatment systems, and in the process, protect any potentialLegionella orMycobacterium within them. These bacteria then are able to increase in both number and infectivity, posing an increased health risk for water users.

“The disease burden caused by exposure to drinking water carrying these amoebae and bacteria could be much larger than we realize, as sources of community-acquired pneumonia infections are rarely identified,” Thomas says. “More research is urgently required before accurate risks assessments can be undertaken to assess the impacts on human health – in households and institutions – of exposure to these amoebae that carry bacteria. The study also raises the question over where treatment of water supplies should be focused – at the start of the distribution systems or in premises.”

Interestingly, a sample of desalinated water showed no sign of amoebae, suggesting desalination may have a role in future treatments.

Water For People Turns 20

Water For People is celebrating its 20th anniversary of working to create a world where all people have access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation, and where no one suffers or dies from a water- or sanitation-related disease. In 1991, the American Water Works Association (AWWA) founded Water For People with this vision in mind, and now the organization works in 11 developing countries in Asia, Africa, Central America and South America.

Partnerships with local governments, civil institutions, plus the private sector, including emerging entrepreneurs, are the hallmarks of Water For People’s work to provide the foundation for communities and municipalities to become self-reliant in providing their own water and sanitation services. Innovative technologies such as FLOW (Field Level Operations Watch) have instrumentally shifted methods of data collection and reporting on projects, which demonstrates accountability to donors and the people who are relying on newly developed services.

“We are very grateful for the outstanding support that the North American water and wastewater community has given us over the years,” says Ned Breslin, Water For People CEO. “Through the passion, dedication and hard work of Water For People’s partners, supporters and volunteers, we have helped transform the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. But this is only a glimpse of what we can achieve in the future. We celebrate this day, but we don’t lose sight of our larger goal: To continue fostering locally-based partnerships, and utilizing innovative solutions so that everyone has access to safe water and sanitation.” 

Geothermal Certification Offered

The National Ground Water Association (NGWA) is offering a new designation – the Certified Vertical Closed Loop Driller (CVCLD) – for drillers who construct closed-loop well systems for ground source heat pump applications.

In order to earn the designation, applicants must:
  • Be at least 20 years old.

  • Have 24 consecutive months experience constructing loop wells or conventional water supply wells.

  • Pass a 75-multiple-choice-question exam, which encompasses the required skills and competencies.
Exams are scheduled through NGWA’s third-party testing facility by contacting PSI LaserGrade at 800-211-2754 (360-896-9111 outside the U.S.). The exam fee is $125 for NGWA members, and $300 for non-members.