Even plumbers are exposed to hazards that could require personal protective equipment.
When homeowners think of a plumber, their first image is often a contractor torqueing on a wrench to fix a leak under the sink.
They don’t think about safety glasses, gloves and other personal protective equipment (PPE). As plumbing professionals, however, you know what you’re working with daily and how dangerous some of those tools and techniques can be. That is why PPE is essential.
Keeping yourself safe isn’t just about keeping OSHA off your back. It’s about protecting your business and — most importantly — yourself and your staff. Even if you work primarily in homes where your biggest hazard might be bumping your head on a cabinet, you should still know what PPE works best.
Open those eyes: Safety glasses protect your eyes from caustic chemical splashes, like when the customer forgets to tell you they poured a cleaning solution down the drain right before calling you. They also protect your eyes from being hit by tools, flying debris and soldering spatters.
Head in the game: You won’t need a hard hat too often, but if you are working on a construction project or crawling around in an attic or other tight space, it’s a good idea to wear one. You might also consider a “bump cap.” It’s technically not a hard hat and is not approved by the ANSI, but it can provide light protection from cuts or a glancing blow.
Boots on the ground: You want a good pair of boots at all times, and make sure they’re slip resistant because you’re working around water. Look for models with impact-resistant toes to prevent injury from dropped tools.
Raising a hand: We know gloves aren’t the easiest to work in, but they will save your hands. When soldering, you don’t want hot metal or the torch to come in contact with your hand — the burn could be serious enough to put you out of work. Gloves will also protect against cuts and chemical burns.
Can you hear me now?: If you are using power equipment, you should use hearing protection. If the noise is consistently louder than 90 decibels for eight hours, you need earplugs. Just 92 decibels brings the safe duration down to six hours, and for 115 decibels, its only 15 minutes at a time before OSHA requires hearing protection. Anything over 140 decibels mandates ear protection at all times.
If you want to see some good examples of wearing the correct safety equipment, look no further than the profile on Banghart Plumbing in this issue. Dave Banghart and his apprentice are both wearing gloves and safety glasses. When needed, the apprentice also wears a mask for further protection.
THERE ARE DANGERS
If you have worked without any of this safety gear, there is a reason to start wearing it. Just think of all the hazards you could face: hearing loss, eye injuries, electrical shock, mold infestation, biohazardous materials (if working in medical facilities) and more.
What are some dangerous situations you have encountered on the job, and what tips would you offer fellow plumbers? Email some of those tips and your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Enjoy this issue!