Three workers in Burkina Faso take a break after emptying a latrine
Basile Ouedraogo/Water Aid
Sanitation workers – people whose job brings them into direct contact with human waste – are risking their lives through accident and disease because of poor workplace protection, a report has warned.
The report highlights the plight of workers in some of the world’s poorest countries and is the most indepth study to date on a group of people who do vital but dangerous and dirty work, risking their lives every day.
As well as facing physical dangers the workers are often the most marginalised in society, working irregular and informal hours and are often shunned by their communities.
The report, by organisations including the World Health Organization, Water Aid, the World Bank and the International Labour Organization, focuses on workers in nine countries – Bangladesh, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Haiti, India, Kenya, Senegal, South Africa and Uganda.
The job of sanitation worker includes cleaning toilets, emptying pits and septic tanks, cleaning sewers and manholes and operating pumping stations and treatment plants.
Workers often come into direct contact with human waste, working with no equipment or protection which exposes them to a wide variety of health hazards and disease such as diarrhoea and cholera.
Toxic gases, such as ammonia, carbon monoxide and sulphur diox