Safety always comes first

Safety always comes first

Compiled by Cherry Ellis

You name it, construction, mining, building, even in the normal office environment and not to mention in plumbing, safety issues are vital.

Whether you are cleaning a clogged drain (and exposed to all kinds of germs and bacteria), installing a water heater, or soldering pipe on a multistorey apartment complex, a plumber, installer, or contractor needs to think: safety first.

Plumbing companies stress the importance of training the workforce in safe practices and the use of personal protection equipment as being key to getting the job done right and, more importantly, protecting yourself.

Plumbing pros looking for guidance in personal protection gear and safety practices can also avail themselves of videos and other materials provided by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA lists occupation-specific advisories on both potential health and safety hazards and protective equipment and practices.

Know the hazards

Slips and falls are a common hazard for plumbers working in wet environments daily. Plumbers can also be exposed to toxic or carcinogenic substances such as mould, lead, asbestos, solder, adhesives, and solvents.

first aid 908591 1920Then there is the possibility of coming into contact with biohazards in raw sewage from septic tanks, sewage pipes, or laying new pipes, or infection from bird or rodent droppings. The trade also means working in proximity to hot pipes, heating equipment, combustible materials, noise, electricity, and extreme heat. Plumbers work in tight space, often with poor ventilation, and can work at heights on ladders and scaffolds.

All vehicles should be equipped with a basic first aid kit. Credit: Pixabay

It is no secret that some plumbing professionals think the only safety gear they need is a pair of gloves and some sturdy work boots. It is easy to fall into the habit of viewing the work as routine, dirty, and often messy, but not thinking of it as dangerous to life and limb.

What kinds of safety equipment are mandatory for the plumbing professional? It is a relatively short list and definitely dictated by what kind of work you do. For example, the plumber who does mostly residential fixture repair and drain cleaning may need less protective gear than the guy working on massive commercial boiler systems. The key is to know what the potential hazards are and the best ways to reduce exposure.

We’re not just talking wearable protective equipment. The list also includes products or equipment that can eliminate or reduce the risk of taking those contaminants and biohazards from the job site to the main shop or home.

For example, plumbers and plumbing contractors are well aware that there is a potential for illness from exposure to raw sewage and/or the contents of sewer and water piping. Have a system for cleaning all tools and a change of clothes so potential problems do not get carried home with you; disinfect tools that come into contact with these potential hazards. You want to protect yourself from head to toe — hard hat to work boots.

Head gear

Hard hats are mandatory in construction areas. Whether you are climbing stairs, riding a lift to higher floors, or hauling a load of piping above ground level, if there is a chance ofHardhat falling building materials, wear a hard hat. When working at heights, either from a ladder, scaffolding, or mobile elevating work platform (MEWP), the hard hat must include a chin strap.

An essential piece of safety equipment: the hard hat. Credit: Pixabay

Safety glasses

Eye safety is a big issue. Experts say you need to wear safety glasses anytime you are doing anything that could potentially damage your eyes. You will find that many chemicals come with advice not to use them without the appropriate eye protection. Are you snaking a drain, working under a sink, replacing a pipe, soldering, using a power saw? Your eyes are a sensitive target for flying objects or chemicals.


SAfetygoggles 908877

Protect your eyes at all times by wearing safety goggles.


Your hands may be exposed to chemicals and other potentially corrosive, alkaline, or acidic materials while working plumbing projects, and to chemicals, heat, or flames when doing pipe joining. Choose heat-insulating work gloves and consider wearing latex gloves under leather gloves to protect against biohazards in drain lines.

Face masks

Projects that produce dust particles from sawing or sanding call for a disposable face mask. Heavier duty respiratory equipment may be required in environments where the plumber may be exposed to germs and chemicals.

Safety boots

Plumbers work in wet environments, so there’s always a risk of slip-and-fall injuries. Choose non-skid soled work boots with protective toes.

Associations concerned with workplace safety advise keeping safety gear in good condition, so it can do its intended job: reducing the incidence of illness, injury, and death on the job. There is no place to cut corners. The professionals suggest investing in the best protection gear you can afford, keeping it in good working order, and disinfecting gear or discarding it after exposure to chemicals and toxins.

Having a first aid kit on every vehicle is also a good idea, and encourage supervisors to get training on at least a level 1 first aid course.

Inspect your gear regularly

Check the work truck for the presence of safety equipment and the condition thereof — worn-out or non-working equipment is not of much use on the job. When equipment is old, replace it immediately. Invest in top-of-the-line equipment. That is an investment in your own health and safety and that of your employees or co-workers.

Do regular on-site checks of how work is accomplished. You might spot a lapse in safe working habits and the need for a training session or refresher course. Whether you are a sole operator, small crew, or sizeable operation, consider having an outside safety professional check out how you work and make any corrective suggestions. A little prevention goes a long way.

A final warning: use tools and equipment only for the purposes they are intended. The correct equipment will make the job simpler and more straightforward. The wrong tool for the job can lead to burns, electric shock, strains, sprains, pulled muscles, and other injuries.

Keep the following in mind:

  • Your safety is your personal responsibility.
  • Always follow the correct procedures.
  • Never take shortcuts.
  • Take responsibility and clean up if you made a mess.
  • Clean and organise your workspace.
  • Ensure a clear and easy route to emergency exits and equipment.
  • Be alert and awake on the job.
  • Be attentive at all times.
  • When in doubt, contact your supervisor or manager for instruction, guidance, or training.
  • Never take risks when it comes to safety.
  • Obey safety signs, stickers, and tags.
  • Take short breaks when you keep up a repetitive motion for an extended period of time, and sit, stand, or walk with good posture.
  • Report serious injuries immediately to a supervisor and get emergency assistance.
  • Keep things in perspective. Hazards may be limitless, so focus on the most likely risks first.


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