When you originally got into water damage restoration, you knew that you’d be getting your hands dirty; along with your arms, legs, face and the rest of your body. But you may not have considered that it could get worse – if you decided to add sewage cleanup to your list of services.

“Sucking sewage” may not be the most glamorous of occupations, but it can certainly be profitable. But you don’t want to just jump into it (because that would be nasty) without being prepared. So the following are a few points to consider:

See No Evil - Considering the material you’re  dealing with, your first objective is to prevent the risk of cross contamination into those areas not originally affected. So build containment that totally encloses the befouled area. Also be sure to lay down floor protection outside the containment area and don’t stray from it as you pass in and out of the building.

  • Remember that commercial clients are going to be a little more sensitive to these messes than homeowners are. After all, there’s nothing quite like the site of raw sewage to send customers running. So be sure to use opaque sheeting when building the containment area. Some heavy-duty deodorizer may also be needed until the feculence is no more.

Touch No Evil – there’s a laundry list of dangerous health hazards associated with coming into contact with fecal matter. It’s critical that it's kept from coming into contact with your skin; especially cuts, sores and any mucus membrane associated with the eyes, ears and nose. That means covering up completely! Suit, full face respirator, hood, gloves, rubber boots, duct tape, etc. Also keep readily available a full stock of respirator wipes and sanitizer wipes, as well as access to an eye wash station and a change of clothes.

  • Be apprised that OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens Standard (29 CFR 1910.1030) requires such workers receive regular training including, but not limited to: information on bloodborne pathogens and diseases, ways to control occupational exposure, hepatitis B vaccinations, and medical evaluations.

Keep No Evil – The IICRC S500 Standard states that all contaminated porous items need to be disposed of. Semi porous objects can be individually evaluated and anything non-porous can be cleaned and sanitized.

  • But if the sewer is clogged, what do you do with the sewage you've cleaned up? Check with local health departments about rules for bagging and disposal of solid sewage waste and have available portable waste tanks.

Even if you’re physically prepared to take on this kind of work, are you mentally ready for it? It’s definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. Some folks, once exposed to sewage clean up, have been known to ralph right into their full-face respirator. So make sure you carefully handpick the crews you’ll be delegating these jobs to.