Like it or not, OSHA requires protective gear for a reason. As plumbing contractors, you not only face dangers from the locations in which you work, you’re also exposed to developing life-threatening diseases from contact with asbestos, lead, toxic chemicals, raw sewage and biting vermin.
It’s even possible to bring home Leptospirosis or Parvovirus on your work boots or trucks tires that could kill your dog. Always use the tools available to you to prevent possible contamination and protect yourselves and your loved ones.
Sewage and Contaminated Water
On every job, you take the chance of dealing with materials that could make you sick. Constant precautions are vital to avoid one or more of the following illnesses caused by contact with raw sewage and contaminated water.
• Gastroenteritis is caused by E. Coli or water-borne parasites such as Giardia lamblia or Cryptosporidium. Both are spread via contaminated water.
• Staphylococcus aureus is everywhere, especially on your hands. Toxic strains enter the body though cuts and some are resistant to antibiotics. Schools and hospitals are common breeding grounds for this bug.
• HIV and Hepatitis C are both potentially deadly diseases that can be contracted through contact with infected medical sharps and other materials that can pierce the skin. Both are spread through the blood and other bodily fluids.
• After infection, Legionella (Legionnaire’s disease) symptoms appear from 2 to 10 days and include chills, headaches, fever and muscle pain. An often-deadly bout of pneumonia follows. It’s commonly contracted through the water from spas, municipal pools or decorative fountains.
• Getting bitten by mosquitoes and ticks that breed in standing water can cause Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lime Disease.
One of the first things to watch for are hazardous chemicals. Asbestos is one of the most common plumbing safety risks you may encounter. Many older homes, industrial complexes and commercial buildings commonly used asbestos during construction. Even those supposedly stripped of asbestos can still contain traces due to poor removal, clean-up and clearance practices.
Even passive exposure to asbestos can cause serious health problems, including respiratory infections and cancer – particularly mesothelioma.
Taking the proper precautions can alleviate some of the risk, even when you believe you’re working in a clean environment. Wearing proper eye protection, gloves and breathing masks are part of dealing with such dangerous chemical hazards. Make sure you and your crew are well trained to handle these hazards.
Sewer gas, a byproduct of decomposition, initially attacks your sense of smell so you don’t realize you’re breathing in toxic methane, ammonia and hydrogen sulfide. Always ventilate confined spaces and wear the proper safety equipment.
The interior atmosphere of former methamphetamine labs are a chemical danger zone because the chemicals often linger in drains, sinks, tubs and in ventilation systems. Never enter one of these structures until you’re sure it’s been cleaned by specialists.
Mycotoxins, a by-product of mold, are nasty. They’re chemical-based toxins present within or on the surface of a mold spore, which are touched, inhaled or accidentally ingested. These toxins are enormously potent and can damage nearly every organ and system in your body.
Some effects are so destructive that they can resemble radiation sickness. Others act as neurotoxins, which damage the central nervous system. These can affect behavior, cognition and induce convulsions.
Never assume you’ve built up a resistance to toxic materials because you managed to survive unscathed for years without developing health problems. Plumbers encounter some of the vilest substances and situations on the planet. Take the time to follow all protective measures when on the job. Even if you don’t get sick, you could bring something home to your loved ones.
The topics covered on this site include activities in which there exists the potential for serious injury
or death. PlumbingZone.com DOES NOT guarantee the accuracy or completeness of any information contained
on this site. Always use proper safety precaution and reference reliable outside sources before attempting any construction or remodeling