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Protecting yourself on site

Nearly 70% of plumbers with 30 years on the job have had to undergo knee surgery. Similarly, there’s almost 2,595 deaths each year related to past asbestos exposure. Given these startling stats, it’s important that plumbers and central heating engineers know the risks. In this article, we explain how to stay safe on-site and what you can do to prevent certain problems.

Avoid absestos

It’s important you know how to spot asbestos, as every week, around 20 tradespeople die as a result of their past exposure to the material. The material can be found on the inside and outside of buildings, normally on things like boards, soffits and textured coatings. If you discover asbestos during a project, follow these steps:

1. Stop work immediately and put a warning sign up to stop others entering the area
2. Have the suspected material tested for asbestos
3. Await results
4. If asbestos is present, use a licensed asbestos contractor to finish the job

There are other things you can do to stay safe. Undertake some asbestos safety training if you’ve never had it. If you know you’re going to come into contact with the material, you must wear asbestos protective clothing. This includes:

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Protect your knees

Plumber’s Knee is a well-known condition amongst those in the trade. It’s normally caused by plumbers constantly kneeling without adequate support. The condition is very painful and can make plumbing work impossible. If you’re suffering from the problem, look to do the following:

  • Use ice to reduce swelling
  • Take anti-inflammatory drugs
  • In extreme case, ask a doctor to drain the swelling

tradesperson wearing protective clothing
It’s best to be proactive when it comes to knee injuries and try to prevent them before they become a problem. Here are some simple steps that can prevent you from developing bad knees:

  • Invest in a pair of knee protectors specifically designed for plumbers
  • Purchase a ‘Plumber’s Pad’, which protects knees but can flipped and used as a back support.
  • Regularly check your knees for swelling and stop work if they hurt

Back it up

Back and musculoskeletal problems can be debilitating and stop you from working. In fact, 30% of tradespeople have had to miss work because of a back injury. Here are some of the common causes and things you can do to prevent them:

  •  Lifting heavy materials

Solution: Use the proper lifting techniques to guard against short term injuries and take breaks when needed. Look to use equipment to lift heavy objects like a hoist. If there’s no other option, keep the load close to the waist and adopt a stable position with one leg slightly forward.

  • Constant vibration experienced from sitting in a van

Solution: Ensure you seat is properly adjusted before any long drive. You want your back to be straight with a 110° angle between your back and thighs.

  • Squeezing into uncomfortable spaces for long periods of time

Solution: Do ten minutes of back extensions and knee rolls prior to a job to reduce the risk of injury.

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