The average plumber earns a respectable $45-$200 per hour, with each completed project costing around $300-$480. Why so much? Because plumbing is not just a skilled job, it’s also a dangerous one. There are serious, even potentially life-threatening hazards lurking beneath the surface of even the most routine plumbing jobs. Learn everything you need to know about common causes of plumbing accidents below.
1. A Lack of Safety Gear
Plumbers face significant hazards as a part of their daily duties. From working in confined spaces to potentially causing a sewage leak, a lot can go wrong. That’s why it’s crucial for those within the plumbing industry to wear the appropriate safety gear for each and every plumbing job.
For example, the relatively common and seemingly routine job of attempting to unclog a pipe still requires proper safety gear. Wearing gloves and eye protection is essential for such a task. When working with a clogged pipe, there is always the possibility of raw sewage flowing down and onto your hands or face. If this were to happen, you could fall ill if you failed to wear the right safety gear.
Similarly, plumbers face an increased risk of coming across asbestos on the job, which exposes the improperly protected worker to significant dangers. They’re also more likely to suffer eye injuries. With that in mind, it makes sense that most basic plumbing jobs require gloves, eye protection, and sometimes a mask.
Likewise, plumbers are often called upon to work in confined areas, where they could face problems due to lack of oxygen or being near extremely high- or low-temperature equipment. Proper equipment to work in these areas is vital.
2. Improper Training
Another leading cause of plumbing accidents is improper or insufficient training. As discussed above, plumbers face noted known hazards while on the job. If you need to perform a specific plumbing job, then you need to research the potential hazards first. If you’re an employee, then your employer should provide you with training on known hazards. But knowing the hazards isn’t enough. You need to be properly trained in how to do the job while avoiding injury.
3. Exposure to Dangerous Materials
When laymen think of raw sewage, we cringe. But raw sewage isn’t just disgusting, it’s a biohazard. Plumbers are often in close contact with raw sewage, and they can also encounter soil that’s contaminated. Furthermore, raw sewage also touches the septic systems, sewage pipes, and other areas where a plumber is expected to work.
Sewage can be contaminated with all sorts of bio-hazards like viruses, funguses, parasites, and bacteria. In the age of COVID, it’s also important to note that coronaviruses can potentially spread through exposure to raw sewage.
Raw sewage isn’t the only dangerous material that a plumber can encounter on the job. They also face potential exposure to mold, solvents, dust, asbestos, lead, sulfur dioxide, and other hazards. Each of these poses its own risks, which must be planned for before starting work.
4. Slips, Trips, Falls, and Heights
Plumbers aren’t always working under kitchen sinks. Often, they will be dealing with pipes in elevated areas. By design, working at a height increases your chances of getting significantly injured. Once again, proper safety equipment and training are vital to avoid injuries. Slips, trips, and falls are also a leading cause of plumbing accidents. Slip and fall accidents can lead to significant injuries, even when they happen at ground level. If the floor is wet, for instance, a slip could cause a broken bone or even a traumatic brain injury.
5. Poorly Maintained Equipment
When using equipment or a tool, you expect it to be in good-working condition. A poorly maintained tool is a hazard, and increases the likelihood that you’ll experience a plumbing-related accident.
Your employer has a legal responsibility to maintain the equipment used on the job. Without regular maintenance and care, your tools can become dangerous. To ensure you don’t suffer a plumbing accident due to poorly maintained equipment, make sure you always inspect your tools before using them.
6. Using Unsafe Shortcuts
Our human brains are wired to look for the most efficient and easiest path forward. That’s why we often come up with inventive shortcuts to help us complete tasks faster. Despite that, shortcuts aren’t always the safest option, especially in the plumbing industry.
Using unsafe shortcuts is one of the top causes of plumbing accidents. Attempting to do something without taking the right steps can lead to severe injury. Don’t take the risk. Always follow the instructions and do every step diligently without rushing through your job.
Your employer has a clear legal duty to provide for your safety and care. That means they must, by law, take reasonable steps to ensure your safety as you work every day. In most states, they’re also required to carry worker’s compensation insurance to help protect you financially in the event you do get hurt or fall ill at work. If you are injured in the course of your employment, worker’s compensation insurance can help cover your needs, such as medical expenses and lost wages.
Steps to Take After a Plumbing Accident
The best thing to do, of course, is to follow the tips above and avoid an on-the job plumbing accident. However, even with the best care and preparation, accidents can happen. If you were recently involved in a plumbing accident? The first thing you should do is seek out medical care for your injury. The “wait and see” method is not a good idea because you could end up making your injury worse or even forfeiting your right to getting any future compensation. Statistics show that the most common plumbing injuries include:
- Sprains and strains
- Fractures and broken bones
- Cuts and lacerations
- Eye injuries
- Slip and falls
- Chemical injuries
After a medical diagnosis, you’ll be in a better position to make an informed choice moving forward. Are your injuries minor and your losses minimal? If you’ll be returning to work and didn’t spend much on medical care, then it might be best to simply move on from the accident. If your losses are significant, though, then it’s a good idea to consult with an attorney about your legal options. Depending on the situation, you may be able to recover from your losses by seeking out a personal injury claim. Discussing your specific scenario and injuries is crucial when determining your best legal option moving forward.