A guide to plumbing health hazards (part 2)

Last week, we published the first part of our guide on the health risks plumbers are regularly exposed to when doing their jobs. 

However, the three main hazards we covered - musculoskeletal injuries, tool-related ailments, and slips, trips and falls - are not the only potential threats to their wellbeing.

While these might be the first that spring to mind when considering how a plumber could come to harm as they carry out their work, there are plenty of other risks that they are likely to make contact with throughout their careers.

So, what else does the average plumber need to pay attention to?

Infections and viruses

We've already established that plumbing can often be about as far away from being a glamorous job that you can get. However, to emphasise it even more, it's worth recognising that those awkward cavities and holes under the floor that plumbers often find themselves in can sometimes result in them being in close proximity to animal droppings.

Breathing in the bacteria from some types of faeces can result in various infections and viruses.

For example, the hantavirus is a danger when contact with the droppings of a particular type of rodent is experienced. The illness - also known as haemorrhagic fever - is extremely serious and can even result in fatalities.

Another similar virus is psittacosis, which despite also being called parrot fever, can be contracted after being in close proximity to infected sparrow and pigeon faeces. Symptoms generally present themselves in the same way as pneumonia and once again immediate action should be taken if the condition is manifested.

Electrical hazards and burns

It is well known that water and electricity doesn't mix well and plumbers are in the unfortunate business of often having to deal with products of an electrical nature in a wet environment.

As a result, all precautions should be taken to ensure the power is switched off at the fuse box when necessary to ensure the risk of electrocution is eradicated.

However, another hidden danger is when a plumber is required to drill into a wall when they don't know where any electrical wiring might be. As a result, sufficient personal protective equipment should be worn to minimise the chances of any harm being caused.

Another hazard to contend with is that of burns caused by scalding water or steam. The correct safety procedures for dealing with this should be covered in basic health and safety training, but there's always the chance a professional can be caught out unawares.


Being a plumber can often involve working long hours in cramped conditions, which will do absolutely no favours for a person's stress levels.

Ultimately, this health risk can be completely controlled by the individual and its importance shouldn't be underestimated, as someone who is doing their job while feeling stressed or anxious is more likely to make mistakes that could result in other mishaps occurring.

Taking regular breaks and working towards achievable targets or deadlines is sound advice to live by, while managing customer expectations at an early stage is also a good route to take, to ensure that they don't end up applying extra pressure to get the job done to an impossible standard.

Whether a plumber is self-employed or is part of an organisation, stress can apply either way. According to the Health and Safety Executive, stress accounts for approximately 40 per cent of all work-related illnesses.

One of the most important characteristics all plumbers should possess is an ability to be aware of their environment. Identifying potential hazards comes part-and-parcel with this, and certainly training has a significant role to play in protecting those who are looking to move into the profession.

While there are some situations resulting in harm that can't be helped, the majority can be prevented or at least limited by taking this approach.

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