A guide to plumbing health hazards (part 1)

As every plumber will be able to confirm, their job is hardly one of the most comfortable in the world.

With hours spent in confined spaces and ample opportunity to fall victim to bumps on the head, cuts and scratches and many other ailments, the trade - although highly satisfying - could never be described as being glamorous.

However, in all seriousness, there are multiple hazards that plumbers are exposed to every day that perhaps the general public - and maybe even the professionals themselves - overlook. 

While some of these might not be applicable to every job, it's worth paying attention to what risks tradespeople are taking to help stop accidents from occuring in the future.

So, what are the common health and safety issues for plumbers?

Musculoskeletal injuries (MSIs)

As we've already mentioned, working in awkward positions while carrying out tricky manual tasks is part and parcel of the plumbing job description. However, the long-term impact of this is that it can have a detrimental effect on your tendons, ligaments and nerves.

A common complaint from plumbers is that they suffer from 'dodgy knees', which is a typical example of musculoskeletal injury.

In addition to feelings of pain and discomfort, one of the major drawbacks of MSIs is that they require the sufferer to take at least a week off to recover, which can mean a financial loss to plumbers who are self-employed. 

However, giving your injured area a break is vital, as without it the ailment can develop to the point where the damage caused is permanent.

As a preventative measure, it could well be worth investing your money in protective knee pads, which offer extra support and can prevent your knee caps from becoming inflamed. Also try to give yourself regular rest periods that allow you to take the pressure away from this area of your body.

Slips, trips and falls

As a plumber, it's a given that you'll end up working in wet conditions. Subsequently, your risk of experiencing a slip, trip or fall is greatly increased.

Across UK industry as a whole, this type of incident made up over half of all major injuries in the workplace last year, according to the Health and Safety Executive.

One way you can try to avoid this from happening to you is to do your best to keep your space clear and wear appropriate footwear that offers adequate grip. Similarly, you should attempt to keep the area you are doing your job in as dry as possible to minimise the chance that either you or someone else will experience a slip.

Tool-related injuries

We've all felt the wrong end of the hammer on our hand at some point, but that doesn't mean it hurts any less.

However, there's just as much risk when using other equipment as you carry out your plumbing work and you should never let your guard down when operating machinery or smaller devices.

Sometimes, it's not even the tool itself that can cause harm. For example, when drilling in a confined space - as plumbers are often required to do - there can be a danger of flying particles damaging your eyes.

The answer to this is simple - invest in the correct personal protective equipment and make sure it is properly maintained so that it can do its job properly. When drilling, wear safety goggles, use gloves when necessary and safety boots as standard.

Of course, there are plenty of other hazards that plumbers can encounter regularly and we'll look to address some more of these in another blog that will be published shortly. In the meantime, please take our advice and stay safe!

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