Top Job Site Dangers To Watch For

The risk of injury is high in plumbing. Don’t overlook the dangers you face on a daily basis.
Top Job Site Dangers To Watch For
Mitchell Proner

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You and your friends and family know that plumbers risk severe injury every day.

But plumbing dangers aren’t so obvious to everyone. To the uninformed, plumbing’s easy: a leaky pipe, a clogged drain, a dripping faucet. Nothing too difficult. They think plumbing injuries are insignificant and rarely, if ever, rise to the level of life-threatening. Here’s a lesson for those people: plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If anyone doubts the extreme danger of a plumber’s job, point them to these tragic headlines:

  • Hancock Co. plumber dies while working in septic tank
  • Construction firms cited after plumber's death in trench collapse
  • Plumber’s family sues for fatal South Loop construction accident
  • 2 plumbers burned in gas-line explosion in Bellevue
  • Plumber Electrocuted While Installing Dishwasher

It can’t be stressed enough: Your safety is the single most important part of your job. To avoid injury and harm, it’s critical that you keep a sharp eye out for the various accidents and dangers most often encountered by plumbers.

How Plumbers Are Often Hurt and Injured

If you’re a pipefitter, steamfitter or plumber, the potential for physical harm is alarmingly broad. A plumber’s risks can lead to numerous physical dangers, from deep cuts to severe burns to even death. While plumbers face more dangers than can be counted, here’s a list of the ones to be most mindful of.

On-Site/Construction Accidents

Whether it’s a residential job or large-scale construction, dangers come at you from all sides: your environment, your equipment, your tasks. The following list illustrates some of the on-site dangers plumbers face:

  • Bending, carrying or lifting: When done improperly, you can suffer neck, back and other musculoskeletal injuries. 
  • Cramped or awkward spaces: Limited movement or space increases your risk of injury.
  • Ladders, platforms, scaffolding or wet floors: Slips, trips and falls are some of the most common workplace injuries
  • Trenches: While working in a trench, you must be mindful of cave-ins, which can trap you and possibly result in death. 
  • Operating tools: Improper tool use can cause amputations, abrasions, injury from flying debris and repetitive motion injuries. 
  • Loud noises: Excessive noise causes thousands of construction workers to lose their hearing every year. 
  • Extreme temperatures: Whether it’s freezing conditions or sweltering temperatures, weather can be a dangerous factor in a plumber’s everyday work life.

Exposure to Hazardous Materials and Chemicals

Every day, plumbers risk exposure to countless harmful substances. Toxic and carcinogenic chemicals are part of this danger. Another part is the potential for respiratory damage from noxious or poisonous fumes. Take precautions and protect your lungs, eyes and skin from:

  • lead;
  • sulfur dioxide;
  • mold;
  • adhesives;
  • drain cleaners;
  • solvents;
  • solder; and
  • asbestos

Exposure to Biohazards and Sewage

Sewage pipes and septic tanks pose a serious threat to plumbers. If you come in contact with raw sewage or contaminated soil, you can easily be infected by bacteria, parasites, funguses and viruses. These infections can lead to one of many sewage-related diseases, including:

  • encephalitis;
  •  E. coli diarrhea;
  • gastroenteritis;
  • giardiasis;
  • hepatitis;
  • shigellosis; and
  • typhoid fever

Flammable Materials and Electricity

Combustibles and electricity pose a bodily threat to plumbers. Sadly, a plumber was electrocuted and killed last year while installing a dishwasher. And in January, a plumber’s torch sparked a fire, heavily damaging the house he was working in. To prevent fires, burns and shocks, be careful and observant when working around:

  • flammable or combustible materials;
  • gas lines;
  • boilers; 
  • welding or soldering equipment; 
  • steam pipes;
  • hot water;
  • electric tools, equipment and power cords (especially near water); and
  • electrical wiring

Take Your Safety Seriously 

It’s already been said, but it bears repeating: Your safety is first and foremost. While the 30 dangers listed above make up an extensive list, it’s not a full list of plumbing dangers. Plumbers face countless threats, many of them unseen and unexpected. 

To protect yourself and lessen your odds of injury or death, knowing your risks is half the battle. The other half is taking an active part in your safety. To stay safe and avoid harm, always follow these general plumbing safety tips:

  • Research your plumbing project.
  • Wear personal protective equipment.
  • Use proper tools that are in good condition.
  • Ask for help when a plumbing project is difficult or complicated.

And when handling waste or sewage, be sure to:

  • wash your hands with soap and water after handling and before you eat, drink or use the bathroom; 
  • avoid touching your face and bandage any lacerations or open wounds; 
  • wear waterproof gloves and rubber boots;
  • eat in designated clean areas and only after soiled clothes have been removed; and
  • disinfect all work clothing after every use.

Being Safe Isn’t Bulletproof

Let’s say you did everything right. You inspected your job site for plumbing dangers. You carefully handled all hazardous materials. You made safety your top priority. But despite your best efforts, you still suffered an injury. 

What do you do now?

You need to be mindful of your financial options. For a work-related injury, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. If a third party is at fault or your employer was grossly negligent or acted with reckless disregard, you may be able to recover damages in a civil lawsuit.

A plumbing injury can be very costly. Not only that, if your injury is debilitating, long lasting or permanent, it can greatly reduce the quality of your life. Don’t forfeit the compensation you might be entitled to. If you’ve been hurt in a plumbing accident or your loved one was killed in a plumbing accident, be sure to contact a personal injury or workers’ compensation attorney to protect your rights and recover what you’re entitled to.

About the Author
Mitchell Proner is a New York-based personal injury attorney and trial lawyer. Visit


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