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Old 05-09-2016, 03:13 PM   #1
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Default Safety Gear for Plumbers

Keeping yourself safe on the job site isn't just about keeping the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) off your back, it's about protecting your business's biggest asset: your body. Even if you're only working home jobs where the biggest hazard is bumping your head on the back of a bathroom cabinet, you should still know the safety gear, or personal protective equipment (PPE), that works best for plumbers.

Eye Protection for Plumbers

Eye protection keeps your peepers safe from harm. The two most common forms of eye protection you'll need on the job are safety spectacles and safety goggles. Both protect your eyes from caustic chemical splashes (when, for example, your client neglects to inform you that they poured Draino or another caustic agent down their sink right before calling you in a last ditch attempt to unclog it themselves). Goggles and spectacles also protect your eyes from being hit by tools, flying debris and other impact hazards.

Safety spectacles resemble a pair of eyeglasses with metal or plastic frames and impact -- and shatter -- resistant glasses. Some models have side shields to keep your eyes safe from all angles, but overall this form of PPE provides the least amount of protection for your eyes. At minimum, you should always be wearing a pair of safety spectacles.

Goggles can fit over any prescription eyewear you may need, and provide tight-fitting, solid coverage for your eyes and the vulnerable areas immediately adjacent to your eyes and eye sockets. Goggles provide protection from all sides to prevent impact damage or injury from dust and splashes. If you're working in a situation where you think something might hit your eyes, for example the occasional extreme out-of-control strike of an electric drain snake, then goggles are the PPE you need.

Other types of eye protection that you aren't likely to need include face shields, which are pieces of impact-resistant plastic that extend to cover your entire face, welding goggles and laser safety goggles. Unless you're working a highly specialized job, you won't likely need the degree of protection provided by these pieces of equipment.

Do I Need a Hard Hat?

Strictly speaking, you probably don't need a hard hat unless you're working a commercial or industrial job. If you're working a job with other contractors present, where there's a risk of falling tools or electrical exposure, a hard hat is a requirement, not an option.

On day-to-day jobs, you might consider what's called a "bump hat" - not a hard hat in the strictest sense, but these helmets will protect your head from a glancing blow or lacerations. They aren't approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), but they provide light protection.
For tougher jobs where real, heavy-duty head protection is required, hard hats come in three classes as defined by ANSI:

Class A hard hat will keep your head safe from bumps, impact and penetration from falling objects and have an electrical resistance up to 2,200 volts. Class B hats are similar to Class A hats, with a voltage protection of up to 20,000 volts.

If there's no danger of electrical hazards, you'll want to invest in a Class C hard hat, which are like bump hats in that they offer no protection from electrical shock, but they're ANSI rated to protect against impact and penetration.

Protective Footwear for Plumbers

If you slip and fall, you risk injuring your entire body. Slip-resistant work boots are available in a variety of price points and are one piece of safety gear every plumber should own. Look for models that have impact-resistant toes, to prevent damage from dropped tools. Some safety shoes and boots also have metal insoles, which protect against puncture wounds (for example, if you're working a job site where you might step on a nail).

A good pair of boots lasts and will eventually pay for itself in protection from medical bills and missed work.

Do Plumbers Have to Wear Gloves?

One of the biggest arguments against gloves is that they dampen your sense of touch and you can't as easily feel what you're doing. In certain cases, gloves are an asset and in some, a requirement.

Fabric and animal hide gloves, which protect against lacerations and light impacts, can have grips on the fingers that make it easier to grasp your tool in a wet environment. Synthetic gloves, including latex, nitrile, butyl and neoprene gloves offer similar improvements on grip with the added benefit of protecting against chemical exposure (remember that client who used the caustic drain cleaner?). Many synthetic gloves are disposable, meaning the sewage and other grime you encounter on the job can just be tossed away, no mess and no hassle.

Arm and Body Protection for Plumbers

Short sleeves are a hazard whether you're working on a private job site or an industrial one. Longer sleeves provide abrasion resistance and mild resistance to lacerations. Long sleeves should be snug, to avoid catching on equipment and fixtures.

If a higher level of protection is needed, as is the case when working around caustic chemicals or heavy machinery, coveralls of duck cloth, leather, cotton and even rubber are available for contractors.

Do Plumbers Need Hearing Protection?

Ear protection is dependent on how loud your work site is. If it's consistently louder than 90 decibels for eight hours, you need earplugs. Just 92 decibels brings the safe duration of exposure down to six hours. Noises of 115 decibels are permissible for only 15 minutes at a time before hearing protection is required by OSHA, and exposure to noises 140 decibels or more (for example, power actuated nail guns), mandates ear protection at all times.

Single use, disposable earplugs that are soft and mold to your ear cavity are recommended. Earmuffs are recommended for maximum protection, but can be bulky and cumbersome. Pre-fitted or molded earplugs must be crafted and fitted by a professional and are unlikely to provide much more protection than soft, disposable plugs.

The Right Personal Protective Gear for Plumbers

There is no one right set of protective gear for plumbers. Just as each job calls for a different set of tools, each job calls for a new set of personal protective equipment. Learn to evaluate your job site and the hazards present to best choose the safety gear that's right for you. When in doubt, opt for protection. As the old adage goes, better safe than sorry.

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Old 05-09-2016, 04:27 PM   #2
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The best protection, I have found, is an apprentice to do it for you.
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Old 05-09-2016, 09:36 PM   #3
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I suggest all apprentices get a snowboard goggle case to keep their safety glasses mask and earplugs together.
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Old 05-15-2016, 11:20 AM   #4
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I scratched my cornea really bad last week, I wasn't wearing my safety glasses. I'm trying really hard to use them, they just get fogged up to quick

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