What are the Issues Surrounding Sanitation Safety?

Mary McMahon

The goal of sanitation is to reduce public health risks and to, on a lesser level, to protect the environment from contamination which is not an immediate threat to public health, but could become an environmental problem. A number of issues are faced by people working in the field of sanitation safety, ranging from concerns about the literacy of sanitation workers to worries about bioterrorism. The concerns of people in this industry also vary depending on the type of sanitation they specialize in.

Chefs wear gloves for food sanitation safety.
Chefs wear gloves for food sanitation safety.

Basic sanitation includes sanitation safety at the home level. One of the key areas in basic sanitation is the proper control and disposal of wastewater. Household sanitation also involves household food safety, and the maintenance of clean living conditions which do not promote the spread of disease. Other areas of specialty can include environmental sanitation, which involves limiting environmental contributors to the spread of disease, commercial food safety in facilities like restaurants and farms, and hospital safety.

The threat of terrorism brings stringent security precautions to municipal sewage and water treatment plants.
The threat of terrorism brings stringent security precautions to municipal sewage and water treatment plants.

The cost of implementing a sanitation safety program is a key factor. While public health threats can be expensive, installing and maintaining measures to improve sanitation can also be very costly. Agencies responsible for sanitation safety must weigh the costs and benefits. They may decide, for example, that installing a sophisticated water filtration system on a municipal water supply would be more expensive than allowing a few people to get sick every year from organisms which bypassed the existing filtration system.

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The ability to train people to enforce and follow sanitation recommendations is also critical. In a restaurant or on a farm, for example, some staff may not be very comfortable reading, which means that written handouts about sanitation issues would be ineffective. Finding a way to convey sanitation safety information clearly and effectively is important, as is developing ways to test comprehension, to confirm that people are understanding their role in the protection of public health.

Other issues in sanitation safety can concern the threat of bioterrorism or sabotage. A water supply may, for example, be very well filtered and controlled, but it could still be vulnerable to the deliberate introduction of harmful materials, or to sabotage at water processing facilities which could destabilize the water supply. This is an especially key issue in urban areas, which rely heavily on sanitation safety systems like sewage treatment plants and water filtration facilities.

Recognizing emerging sanitation threats is another issue in sanitation safety. New microorganisms and sanitation-related issues are constantly appearing, and people need to be able to identify and respond quickly to these threats.

Basic sanitation safety includes properly taking care of garbage and refuse.
Basic sanitation safety includes properly taking care of garbage and refuse.

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