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Unread 12-27-2019, 04:28 PM   #1
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Default Chemical Safety for Plumbers



You already know enough to dread the call where a well-meaning but clueless homeowner has used Drano. But drain uncloggers aren’t the only chemicals you need to know about when working as a plumber. Staying safe on the jobsite means having a general knowledge of the substantial hazards you’re likely to encounter - and what to do in the event of exposure.

Basic (and Acidic) Chemistry

When it comes to the chemicals that pose hazards, they’re either extremely acidic -- having a pH less than 7, with lower levels indicating a stronger acid -- or basic, with a pH above 7, with higher levels indicating a more corrosive base. Strong acids and strong bases both can cause damage to your eyes, skin, lungs and tools.

When an acid and a base mix, they rapidly duke it out on a molecular level to reach a pH close to 7 or neutral. When this happens, you’re exposed to potentially toxic fumes and a powerful reaction that can cause burns, explosions and more. It’s the reason you’re cautioned never to mix bleach and ammonia. Bleach, a base, and ammonia, an acid, try to neutralize each other. The result is chlorine gas. In small exposures, you might only get badly irritated lungs and eyes. In larger quantities, it can kill.

Knowing what chemicals are present on the job - and whether they’re acidic or basic - can help you avoid mixing them with their opposites to prevent hazardous and possibly lethal reactions.

Staying Safe

It’s important to know what, if any, chemicals a client used before they called you and how long ago they were used. In a totally clogged sink, for example, the Drano they used a day or two prior can still be lingering at the site of the clog - and when you reach the clog, you might find yourself splashed or worse.

When in doubt about how to properly conduct yourself around a chemical, seek out the manufacturer’s MSDS for the substance. This sheet will not only tell you what PPE you’ll need to safely work around it, but also how to appropriately neutralize and remove it for cleanup, should you need to and any steps to take if your skin is exposed.

What to Look For

Sometimes a client is ashamed or embarrassed to have tried to fix the problem themselves. Sometimes they want to avoid a surcharge for working on a line that’s got chemicals in it. They may not be forthright about their use of chemicals to solve the problem, leaving you at a disadvantage and in a precarious position. When in doubt, outfit yourself with PPE appropriate to handling caustic chemicals. Thick gloves, safety goggles, long sleeves and a keen eye toward keeping yourself out of the line of splashes can go a long way toward keeping you safe. Trust your eyes, nose and gut when it comes to hidden potential hazards.

To Upcharge or Not?

Working on a drain line, appliance or fixture that’s been treated with chemicals represents a significant hazard to your health and safety. It also means you’ll be spending more time on the job, either trying to avoid exposure or trying to neutralize or remove the chemical so you can safely work. It’s prudent to add a surcharge or upcharge for jobs that require working around caustic chemicals to offset this extra time and risk, especially if you’ll need to replenish materials used to soak up a spill or standing pool of it for safe disposal.

Chemicals and You

When it comes to working around chemicals on the jobsite, plumbers have it rough. Not only are you unable to completely see the area you’re working on, but well-intentioned homeowners may have unintentionally complicated the job. Keep yourself safe, know what to look for and what PPE will protect you and how to handle an occupational exposure to caustic chemicals - and consider charging an extra fee for the danger or extra time and materials spent safely cleaning up the mess.

Do you add a surcharge for customers who use chemical drain uncloggers before calling you? Why or why not?

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Unread 12-27-2019, 04:43 PM   #2
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Interesting topic, just today I had a kitchen clog call. I asked the guy on the phone if he put chemicals in there and he said no. Upon arrival opening the front door the smell hit me in the face and they said they used dran_0, I interviewed them a little more and they used other stuff too, they handed me a bottle that contained sulfuric acid. I turned around and left.

F-that. When you get into a house and there's a strong smell of bleach or acidic stench get the F-out or have the full suit and organic vapor full face mask and charge for it.
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Unread 12-27-2019, 05:54 PM   #3
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when I eat white castles I warn everyone around me they should get some PPE like a self contained breathing device...
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Unread 12-27-2019, 06:09 PM   #4
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when I eat white castles I warn everyone around me they should get some PPE like a self contained breathing device...
I saw frozen burgers yesterday and I was thinking how you, do you think they'll taste the same?
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Unread 12-27-2019, 07:08 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by PlumbingZone View Post


You already know enough to dread the call where a well-meaning but clueless homeowner has used Drano. But drain uncloggers aren’t the only chemicals you need to know about when working as a plumber. Staying safe on the jobsite means having a general knowledge of the substantial hazards you’re likely to encounter - and what to do in the event of exposure.

Basic (and Acidic) Chemistry

When it comes to the chemicals that pose hazards, they’re either extremely acidic -- having a pH less than 7, with lower levels indicating a stronger acid -- or basic, with a pH above 7, with higher levels indicating a more corrosive base. Strong acids and strong bases both can cause damage to your eyes, skin, lungs and tools.

When an acid and a base mix, they rapidly duke it out on a molecular level to reach a pH close to 7 or neutral. When this happens, you’re exposed to potentially toxic fumes and a powerful reaction that can cause burns, explosions and more. It’s the reason you’re cautioned never to mix bleach and ammonia. Bleach, a base, and ammonia, an acid, try to neutralize each other. The result is chlorine gas. In small exposures, you might only get badly irritated lungs and eyes. In larger quantities, it can kill.

Knowing what chemicals are present on the job - and whether they’re acidic or basic - can help you avoid mixing them with their opposites to prevent hazardous and possibly lethal reactions.

Staying Safe

It’s important to know what, if any, chemicals a client used before they called you and how long ago they were used. In a totally clogged sink, for example, the Drano they used a day or two prior can still be lingering at the site of the clog - and when you reach the clog, you might find yourself splashed or worse.

When in doubt about how to properly conduct yourself around a chemical, seek out the manufacturer’s MSDS for the substance. This sheet will not only tell you what PPE you’ll need to safely work around it, but also how to appropriately neutralize and remove it for cleanup, should you need to and any steps to take if your skin is exposed.

What to Look For

Sometimes a client is ashamed or embarrassed to have tried to fix the problem themselves. Sometimes they want to avoid a surcharge for working on a line that’s got chemicals in it. They may not be forthright about their use of chemicals to solve the problem, leaving you at a disadvantage and in a precarious position. When in doubt, outfit yourself with PPE appropriate to handling caustic chemicals. Thick gloves, safety goggles, long sleeves and a keen eye toward keeping yourself out of the line of splashes can go a long way toward keeping you safe. Trust your eyes, nose and gut when it comes to hidden potential hazards.

To Upcharge or Not?

Working on a drain line, appliance or fixture that’s been treated with chemicals represents a significant hazard to your health and safety. It also means you’ll be spending more time on the job, either trying to avoid exposure or trying to neutralize or remove the chemical so you can safely work. It’s prudent to add a surcharge or upcharge for jobs that require working around caustic chemicals to offset this extra time and risk, especially if you’ll need to replenish materials used to soak up a spill or standing pool of it for safe disposal.

Chemicals and You

When it comes to working around chemicals on the jobsite, plumbers have it rough. Not only are you unable to completely see the area you’re working on, but well-intentioned homeowners may have unintentionally complicated the job. Keep yourself safe, know what to look for and what PPE will protect you and how to handle an occupational exposure to caustic chemicals - and consider charging an extra fee for the danger or extra time and materials spent safely cleaning up the mess.

Do you add a surcharge for customers who use chemical drain uncloggers before calling you? Why or why not?

Attachment 116038




Personally I love it when the customer pours in tons of draino or liquid plumber. Makes more money for me when it burns holes in the metal pipe and cleans the grease stopping those diy glue joints from leaking.


And when it splashes in my hair I get the added bonus of straightening my jerry curls. Then I ain't gotta buy me any lye of my own! Hot dawg!













.
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Unread 12-27-2019, 07:20 PM   #6
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A local restaurant employee died a few months back from exposure when bleach and amonia were mixed inadvertently. The story was that someone else did it, and he was trying to squeegee it all out the back door to prevent the fumes from building up inside, attempting to keep it away from the other staff and patrons. The press was making him out to be a hero, if they can be believed. Young, recent new father, sad.

When I hear stories like this it makes me all the more adamant to fight against these fukking neandertals among us that brush safety off as namby pamby BS.
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Unread 12-27-2019, 08:37 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Tango View Post
Interesting topic, just today I had a kitchen clog call. I asked the guy on the phone if he put chemicals in there and he said no. Upon arrival opening the front door the smell hit me in the face and they said they used dran_0, I interviewed them a little more and they used other stuff too, they handed me a bottle that contained sulfuric acid. I turned around and left.

F-that. When you get into a house and there's a strong smell of bleach or acidic stench get the F-out or have the full suit and organic vapor full face mask and charge for it.





I get where you're coming from and don't blame you for not touching. But frankly the situation is not that difficult to deal with. Wear gloves, shop vac it out, pour it in the toilet. Put any rags/drop cloths you use to clean up the mess in a separate bucket to rinse off/wash later on.



When you run the snake in set it up so you can run water while the snake is still in before pulling it back. If you must pull it back while it's still clogged do not run the drill, just pull it back by hand over a bucket and wipe it off with a damp rag as you pull it back.


Or one of my favorite tricks if the shop vac won't clear it is to hook a fernco drain cap on and give it full pressure. If there's a vent you'll get at most 20 feet of head which a drain cap can more than handle or it will clear. Hold the cap on as you open the valve to apply water pressure. If it doesn't clear you can just drain it into a bucket.


I don't recall ever turning down a job because of drain cleaning chemicals being present. I have dealt with it many times. Dealt with it today and on monday. Drain cleaning chemicals that homeowners can get are not really strong at all. If you do get some on you just flush the area with cold water.












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Unread 12-27-2019, 08:40 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by goeswiththeflow View Post
A local restaurant employee died a few months back from exposure when bleach and amonia were mixed inadvertently. The story was that someone else did it, and he was trying to squeegee it all out the back door to prevent the fumes from building up inside, attempting to keep it away from the other staff and patrons. The press was making him out to be a hero, if they can be believed. Young, recent new father, sad.

When I hear stories like this it makes me all the more adamant to fight against these fukking neandertals among us that brush safety off as namby pamby BS.



Someone mixing bleach and ammonia isn't them brushing off safety, it's just ignorance not knowing what will happen. I have never heard of someone who really thought it would work better and they could deal with the fumes. I have met people who just didn't know. When people do know they just don't do it.



He doesn't sound like a hero, he sounds like an idiot. He knew what was going on and chose to breathe it in. He should have just told everyone to get out.


















.
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Unread 12-27-2019, 09:39 PM   #9
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I get where you're coming from and don't blame you for not touching. But frankly the situation is not that difficult to deal with. Wear gloves, shop vac it out, pour it in the toilet. Put any rags/drop cloths you use to clean up the mess in a separate bucket to rinse off/wash later on.



When you run the snake in set it up so you can run water while the snake is still in before pulling it back. If you must pull it back while it's still clogged do not run the drill, just pull it back by hand over a bucket and wipe it off with a damp rag as you pull it back.


Or one of my favorite tricks if the shop vac won't clear it is to hook a fernco drain cap on and give it full pressure. If there's a vent you'll get at most 20 feet of head which a drain cap can more than handle or it will clear. Hold the cap on as you open the valve to apply water pressure. If it doesn't clear you can just drain it into a bucket.


I don't recall ever turning down a job because of drain cleaning chemicals being present. I have dealt with it many times. Dealt with it today and on monday. Drain cleaning chemicals that homeowners can get are not really strong at all. If you do get some on you just flush the area with cold water.












.
I think you missed the part they put sulfuric acid. It's not draino but real acid.

I do draino jobs but I turn away acid jobs and those who poured a full gallon of bleach are refused too.

I did a few sulfuric acid jobs at first where it burnt my pants and shirt and made a hole in the asphalt from a drop of the vaccuum hose. Nope I'll make money another day for something safer.

Same for bleach, the stench is so strong it lingers in your nose for 24 hours and burns you lungs.

Here, a guy threw concrete floor cleaner(sulfuric acid) on his girlfriend a few years ago.


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Unread 12-27-2019, 10:07 PM   #10
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I think you missed the part they put sulfuric acid. It's not draino but real acid. .................................Here, a guy threw concrete floor cleaner(sulfuric acid) on his girlfriend a few years ago.


.



I think you missed the part where I said " Drain cleaning chemicals that homeowners can get are not really strong at all.".


I did not call out draino/liqplum specifically which are sodium hydroxide solutions and not very strong at all. Nor did I discount the acidic options which include but are not limited to toilet bowl cleaner(HCl aka hydrochloric), liquid fire/rooto(H2SO4 aka sulfuric), or clr/other concentrated forms of citric acid.


Bleach, I will admit is quite nasty. But all in all the stuff people can buy at normal outlets and even online for the most part is pretty tame. Concrete floor cleaner undiluted is completely different than the solutions you can buy sold as drain cleaners.


I too probe deeply about what they may or may not have used but I have had maybe two people lie thinking I would turn down the job. I actually said to one of them that I had half a mind to leave right then simply for them lying to me even though they knew it could/would hurt me. But on the whole practically no customer has lied and almost all of them show me the bottle before hand and say this is what's in there and often they offer to vac it out for me if I give them the vac to do it. And some say they expect me to walk.


KOH flakes or concentrated HCl would be a whole different ball game, but I have yet to encounter a customer who used those. I have used them myself however, I keep 35% HCl on the van and used to carry KOH flakes.



I think this is another instance where your customers are just simply antithetical to mine. Your customers may pour down several bottles and try to lie, mine usually just use one bottle and are upfront about it. Maybe it's a city/country difference, or usa/canada difference, or maybe it's because many of your customers are immigrants who are used to acting defensively. Either way i am not saying you are wrong in your choice. I am saying we have different scenarios and thus make different choices.


I am quite comfortable with chemicals. I have had light burns before(recreational/young dumb) and have had a good amount of experience working with them in a safe manner. Someone has to do it. They put the stuff in there. So I either turn the work down and let the idiot deal with it and probably hurt themselves or I, the professional with experience deal with it and charge them 95$/hr to do so.



Maybe one day I will have an accident and change my mind but for now that's how I feel.
















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