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What do you do about workplace hazards for plumbers?

From electrical hazards to exposure to bio-hazards, there are various health and safety risks associated with being a plumber. We’ll tell you everything there is to know about plumbing health and safety and how to identify a workplace hazard.

Whether you work in people’s homes or in public places as a plumber, there are risks to be aware of. From apprentices to tenured plumbing business owners, everyone should know how to identify risks and mitigate them.

We’ll discuss in detail some of the risks and hazards you could come across, and tell you how to avoid them. We’ll also look at how to run a risk assessment as a plumber out in the field.

What is classed as a workplace hazard?

A workplace hazard is something in a workplace that could hurt people, make them sick, or damage things. Hazards can be things you see, like tools, or things you can’t see, like chemicals or how work is done.

Keeping the workplace safe means finding and fixing these risks before they can become hazards to you and your team.

What hazards can plumbers experience at work?

Plumbers encounter various workplace hazards as they perform their tasks. Common workplace hazards for plumbers include:

Electrical hazards

  • Plumbing systems often intersect with electrical systems. Plumbers must be cautious around live electrical components and take steps to avoid electrical shocks.

Plumbing bio-hazards

  • Plumbers may encounter mould, sewage, or other biological contaminants, which can pose health risks if not handled carefully.
  • Plumbers also may be exposed to dust, fumes, or particulate matter when cutting, soldering, or welding pipes.
  • Plumbers sometimes need to work in confined spaces like crawl spaces or utility pits. These spaces can be hazardous due to poor ventilation and potential exposure to toxic gases.

Hazardous chemicals

  • Plumbers may work with chemicals such as drain cleaners, soldering flux, and adhesives, which can lead to skin irritation or respiratory issues if proper protective measures are not taken.

Physical hazards

  • Plumbers often work in wet environments, increasing the risk of slips and falls. This can be due to water spills, slippery surfaces, or uneven flooring.
  • Soldering and welding are common tasks for plumbers, which involve working with open flames and hot materials. Burns and fires can result from mishandling these tools.
  • Working with sharp cutting tools, like saws and pipe cutters, increases the risk of cuts and injuries.
  • The use of power tools can also expose plumbers to high noise levels, which can lead to hearing damage over time. Vibrations from tools can also cause hand-arm vibration syndrome.

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How to stay on top of plumbing health and safety

Besides investing in the best plumbing PPE you can, each of these risk categories should be assessed to stop them from becoming active hazards to your health:

Electrical hazards

Plumbing near electrical stuff is a risk to your life – electricity and water is a deadly combination. A burst pipe near an outlet could cause death and severe electrocution, so hire an electrician to ensure your safety.

Plumbing bio-hazards

Proper respiratory protection is essential to prevent inhalation hazards. To shield yourself from dust and harmful particles, wear a good face mask.

Older homes might have asbestos, which is a major health risk. Learn to spot it and consider bringing in professionals for safe removal of it.

Raw sewage is a major plumbing workplace hazard. Improper handling can lead to diseases like hepatitis, which can be deadly. Protect yourself with proper clothing that covers your entire body.

Wash your hands regularly when you’re dealing with dirty water and keep antibacterial wipes and sanitizer nearby.

Hazardous chemicals

Plumbers should handle solvents with care, wearing safety gear like gloves, masks, and eye protection. Protect your skin from chemicals to avoid issues like contact dermatitis. Use gloves whenever you can.

Physical hazards

Carrying heavy tools can strain your back if you don’t carry them properly. Remember to take regular breaks or get help for carrying heavy loads to and from jobs. You could also learn proper lifting techniques in a training course.

Ensure you wear good, non-slip shoes for safety when you’re working at height, including on ladders. A fall from high up can result in broken bones or worse, causing long-term damage that stops you from working.

Having a partner on the job with you can help you to mitigate a lot of the physical risks. There’s currently a shortage of experienced plumbers in the UK, so hiring an apprentice and training them up could be a smart move.

Check out our ultimate guide to hiring an apprentice for trade businesses.

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Assessing the risks

Here’s your plumbing health and safety checklist you should tick off before every job. It doesn’t take long, and it can be the difference between a great job and a trip to the hospital!

  1. Assess all the risks before starting a job. Hidden dangers exist, so do a thorough assessment.
  2. Consider the environmental hazards and purchase PPE for your safety.
  3. Ensure you follow your company’s safety policies. Self-employed? Look into online courses you can take to become health and safety certified.
  4. Perform a COSHH assessment. Attend essential HSE and first-aid courses for your knowledge and safety.
  5. Take your health and safety seriously; it’s your well-being and livelihood.

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Keep yourself covered for all eventualities against plumbing health and safety risks with great insurance. Whether you need insurance for just yourself or a whole team, you can save money on your premiums as a Checkatrade member.

We’ve secured partnerships with some of the top names in the industry. We get our members exclusive discounts, including 20% off public liability insurance.

  • Cover is specifically designed for tradespeople, tailor-made to your needs, and arranged in a simple and straightforward way
  • You also have the flexibility to add optional extra covers too, giving you complete peace of mind

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