Public utility services: one administration

Water, environmental, energy and funeral services: what do they have in common?

Utilitalia: a federation that brings together companies, consortia, corporations, which deal with the management of public utility services.

A total of about 95,000 employees, different collective agreements, different areas of operation but common problems.
Given that adopting management systems that guarantee the health and safety of workers is fundamental, these activities, in which several parties are involved, require dedicated plans and actions.
The INAIL and Utilitalia protocol has been approved, which provides for a mutual commitment of the parties in the definition of actions to concretely improve safety levels in working environments.
The plan, drawn up by each organisation, will have to analyse the risks - taking into account the context area and the mandatory regulations - the measures already in place and the measures to be adopted to achieve the set objectives.Below is a part of the protocol that contains, in addition to indications on the correct management of the work environment, the specific risks to be managed.

Interference management
A complex aspect in the service companies listed above is that of contract management.
The plan and preventive measures must also cover contractors, self-employed workers and the entire production cycle, whether or not there is legal availability of the places where it takes place.
Think of road maintenance work, the use of waste treatment plants, work on power stations, etc.
Workers, who generally belong to contractors, face so-called interfering risks. Interfering refers to the overlapping and/or contiguous activities of workers answering to different employers. A procedure is therefore laid down in the protocol that defines roles, tasks, responsibilities and operating methods for safety.

In this sector, many accidents are caused by the use of work equipment, i.e. any machine, tool or plant used in production processes. It is therefore necessary to take action on the choice of the type of equipment, the way it is used, its installation and the manutention which must guarantee its efficiency and safety.

Confined space
The activities carried out by the utility companies, listed above, take place in confined space. Just think of:

water services: drinking water tanks, hanging tanks, rooms with drinking water facilities, excavations for pipe-laying;

purification services: digesters, chemical reagent depots, sludge storage tanks, sewage collection tanks, sewage collectors, excavations for pipe-laying;

environmental hygiene services: waste storage tanks and cisterns, bio-oxidation and composting tanks, biogas pits, leachate pits and tanks, waste pits, loading hoppers, combustion chambers (incinerator furnace), tanks, etc;

gas distribution energy services: gas cabins, gas odour rooms, excavations for pipe-laying;

electricity services: underground electricity cabins, power generation plants;

district heating services: underground chambers, excavations for pipe-laying, boilers for heat production;

cemetery services: deep burials, inhumations, pit graves, underground crypts.

The effective management promoted by the protocol includes minimising the number of staff working, facilitated by the introduction of new technologies, continuous monitoring of air quality, continuous environment control, and adequate training and information.

Road management
The protocol defines both road traffic management of company vehicles and road work management. For the management of road traffic risks, in addition to the common rules, it is necessary to take into account the behaviour and state of health of the driver, vehicle maintenance and the definition of road routes, traffic, weather conditions at the planning stage.
Road work management is a more complex subject; it concerns all activities of land protection and decency, waste handling, network maintenance and all activities carried out on roads and areas designated for vehicle and pedestrian traffic.
For this reason, at construction sites, whether fixed, mobile, emergency or planned, it is important to assess, in addition to the risks of the activity itself, those arising from the risk of investment, those linked to the involvement of passers-by (e.g. falls, leaks from underground networks, etc.) and those of contingent factors.

Management of work at height
 work at heightmeans any activity that exposes the worker to the risk of falling from a height of more than 2 metres above the stable surface. The protocol also defines all activities involving the suspension and use of restraint systems that may cause injury.
Therefore, the places of intervention, interference, the provision of PPE and suitable tools, the construction of regular accesses (gangways, ladders, scaffolding) and not improvised structures must be analysed.

Related Work Stress Management
The protocol addresses the risk of work-related stress, which is obviously present in any work activity, in order to avoid an increase in accident events. Analysis of the activities performed, the occurrence of so-called 'sentinel' events, roles, career development, communication, training, and management of the working environment are all aspects to be taken into account in order to promote workers' well-being and reduce the risk of stress. Within the public services, stress is mainly caused by:

  • the respect of restoration times, in the event of failures, of utilities;

  • the relationship with users and customers;

  • night and/or solitary work;

  • heavy traffic;

  • the prolonged use of PPE

  • emergency management;

  • unhealthy and unsafe environments;

  • the handling of loads;

  • interventions with corpses and remains;

  • the presence of malodorous material.

Managing exposure to biological agents
In the work contexts listed above, there is a risk of contact and contamination by biological agents; think of waste management, waste water and the funeral industry. Any microorganism can cause infections, allergies and intoxication. It is therefore important to define the organisational arrangements of the entire production cycle and individual responsibilities to limit the risk to workers.
Apply the right hygienic conditions, appropriate cleaning protocols, proper maintenance of air conditioning systems, use of appropriate Personal Protective Equipment, reduction of exposure times to agents, and proper staff training.