Hazards come with the territory in most trade professions, and plumbing is no different. As a plumber, eliminating your exposure to hazards completely is a pie in the sky. Instead, focus on reducing your exposure to risk wherever possible when you’re on site.
So, let’s do a round-up of the most common hazards that plumbers will encounter in the field – and how you can take some simple steps to avoid them. Generally speaking, these plumbers’ hazards apply to most types of plumbers, which is why insurance for plumbers is essential.
Common plumbers’ health and safety risks and how to avoid them
1. Slips and trips
Slips and trips may seem innocuous enough…until they’re not. Slipping and tripping is an ever-present risk for plumbers, given the types of sites plumbers operate in. And more often than not you’ll land on a hard surface, or a sharp corner
To reduce risk of slips and trips, make sure that your worksite is sufficiently lit. And ensure that any wet or slippery surfaces are clearly signed – if they can’t be cleaned up altogether. Going a step further, you could consider investing in non-slip flooring for trouble areas.
2. Falls from heights
Falling from heights is a very real risk for plumbers – made worse because you’ll almost always fall on a hard surface. Falls from heights unfortunately occur often in the plumbing industry, and sadly can often result in fatalities.
To reduce the risk of dangerous falls, ensure that all work platforms are set at an appropriate height for the work to be done. Once the height is set, don’t forget to sufficiently secure the platform. There is no such thing as being too safe, so while you’re at it where appropriate non-slip boots, check that all steps are free from debris and secure, and wear a harness.
3. Electric shock and electrocution
Plumbers need to constantly be aware of their exposure to electric shock while on worksites. Underestimate the risk of electrocution at your peril. When it comes to electric shock and electrocution, it’s worth gaining an understanding of two definitions: arcing, and electric shock.
- Arcing: The sudden release of energy through electric equipment.
- Electric shock: When someone comes into contact with live electricity.
You can reduce your exposure to arcing and electric shock by wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and having the right electricity knowledge and experience.
4. Plumbers’ risks of infection
Infections can be a common risk for plumbers, but you can reduce your risk of infection by adhering to all relevant first aid guidelines. To stave off the risk of infection while tending to plumbing jobs, take all appropriate cautions when:
- providing emergency care to others;
- cleaning up blood and other bodily fluids; and
- storing equipment and materials safely.
And, it goes without saying that plumbers should wash their hands thoroughly before and after work. Don’t get lazy and cut corners here. Think of all the things your grubby mitts come into contact with over a day of hard plumbing labour. Your hands could very easily be a source of infection, so its’ important that you make sure your skin is clean before finishing up for the day and going home.
5. Airborne hazardous materials
Airborne hazardous materials pose a very real risk for plumbers, but this risk can be reduced by using caution. Wear a respirator or dust mask when there are particles present in the air that could affect your health. Also, equip yourself with PPE such as goggles, gloves, or a face shield if you think you’ll be exposed hazardous materials. Wear safety glasses at all times and you’ll go a long way to reducing your risk of exposure and preventable damage.
6. Eye injuries
Our eyes are precious, delicate things, but they can often be in the firing line when it comes to the type of work plumbers do every day. However, there is a simple remedy here, because most eye injuries that affect a plumber’s eyesight are preventable.
Exposure to bacteria and foreign objects are some of the eye hazards affecting plumbers. Wear safety glasses at all times and you’ll go a long way to reducing your risk of exposure and preventable damage.
Plumbers are arguably exposed to asbestos more often than some other types of tradies because they regularly work in environments with an unfamiliar history. Plumbers can get proactive here and reduce their health risks by asking property owners of sites they will be working at if the property has a history of asbestos use. Doing so is your best bet for avoid inhaling these dangerous fibers, which can be lead to dire health problems.
8. Hearing loss
Given the nature of the work, it’s no surprise that hearing loss can be an issue for long-serving plumbers, due to a career spent around banging tools, noisy pipes, and heavy machinery. This can lead to long-term hearing loss, but plumbers can easily reduce their hearing loss risk by investing in quality hearing protection.
9. Injuries from extreme temperatures
Australia is a land of extremes, and that certainly extends to our climate. In many parts of our country plumbers work in extreme conditions. Pipes may be frozen, or they may have to work in hot, confined spaces with little airflow. A raft of injuries could occur as a result of working in such conditions, for all types of plumbers.
While you’re hard at it growing your plumbing business, make sure you plug any potential leaks when it comes to your business insurance* for plumbers. Let BizCover go to work for you; we’ll make finding and purchasing your plumbers insurance easier than turning on a tap.
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