Help Your Workers Help You

Silt fence is a barrier, not a spillway

Silt fence is a barrier, not a spillway


Worker Boo-boos

Usually there is at least one person on the jobsite in charge of stormwater compliance- in Washington State, a CESCL. But every worker can help with compliance…and screw it up.  Here a worker thought it would be a good idea to help the water behind the silt fence into the drain, exactly the opposite of what was supposed to happen. On another job, a worker needed to dewater an excavation, and so he put his discharge hose in the gutter just offsite. The drain had a sock, he reasoned, so the water would be clean when it headed down the pipe to Puget Sound. But he made two errors: the project permit did not allow any discharge to waters of the state, and drain socks don’t remove any particle smaller than fine sand. What went to the Sound was turbid water, possibly with other pollutants picked up from contaminated soils; the worker had a lack of knowledge about BMPs, as well as crucial site regulations.

Train Everyone

CESCLs are required to attend two days of training on regulations and BMPs. But if they’re the only knowledgeable people on the job, things may not go well. Consider providing basic stormwater training to everyone. For example:

  1. There’s a permit: stormwater that leaves the site must meet a standard, and here’s what we are doing to achieve that standard. There are consequences to owner and contractor if we fail.
  2. Water runs downhill: I see BMPs installed in the wrong place all the time. I also see BMPs modified in ways that make no sense…if you know that water runs downhill. And sometimes I see disagreements about just how these things are supposed to work played out in repeated changes back and forth. Drain the water with a trench, plug the trench, dig it out again. Whew!
  3. BMPs are the tools that help us meet standards: What BMPs are used on this site? How do we know they’re working, how do we fix them if they’re not? Are there constraints on activities? On projects I inspect, I never miss an opportunity to talk to workers about the stormwater control features. Perimeter controls, drain protection, trackout avoidance and clean up, all will perform better if the people working around them know what they are and how not to break them.
  4. Ask questions, report problems: Often stormwater management problems or BMP failures are readily apparent even without training. Extend the CESCL’s effectiveness by adding eyes on the job.
  5. Maintain priorities: Workers of course must focus on their primary duties and not “reassign” themselves to stormwater patrol. But they should also get an “attaboy” when they report problems.

Not effective perimeter protection