Plumbing involves the installation, fitting and maintenance of pipes and fittings that convey sewage, water, storm water, gas, steam and oil. This could be municipal or in business premises or homes. People who practice the profession are called plumbers.
Many of the pipes are manufactured from asbestos especially in developed cities, plumbers have to work in some cases in closed environment during installation or repairs of blockages or leaks.
Plumbers are commonly associated with domestic plumbing but most of it is municipal. Waste that is moved by water is called sewage and the infrastructure that conveys the sewage is called sewerage, The sewerage includes drains, manholes, septic tanks/chambers and the sewers (pipes) conveying the waste to the treatment plant.
Like every other profession, plumbing has its hazards as explained below; however these hazards could be reduced by the use of appropriate protective gears.
1. Slips and Falls
The job of plumbers involves a lot climbing with the use of ladders, this can result in falls from heights causing minor to major injuries such as fractures. The floor/grounds may also be slippery especially in temperate countries during winter. Using healthy ladders and non-slip boots could be helpful.
2. Musculoskeletal problems
Plumbing involves assuming some uncomfortable positions while working, lifting heavy objects and repetitive musculoskeletal movements like tightening of screws. These actions could cause backache or wrist pain
Plumbers could suffer minor to major cuts while practicing their profession. In developing countries this is quite common as plumber are not that safety conscious or just do not border. They carry out their work on bare feet, no goggles, no mask, no boots and no overalls. Explosions can also occur when dealing inflammable products like petroleum.
4. Inhalation of toxic gas
A mixture of noxious gases is generated in the sewage system; these could be harmful to the plumber. The gases include Hydrogen sulphide, Ammonia, Carbon monoxide, Methane, Nitrogen oxide and so forth. Of these Carbon monoxide is toxic, it competes with oxygen in the body and can lead to death.
The plumber could be exposed to it when repairing, maintaining or cleaning municipal sewage pipes or septic tanks or oil tanks
Plumbers are exposed to infections like cholera, typhoid fever, Ebola, Lassa fever, Hepatitis A , worm infestations just to mention a few because they deal with human waste. The situation is worse with human waste from healthcare facilities. They are also exposed to mites, rodents, chiggers etc in the course of their work. Plumbers could also be exposed to molds which can cause eye irritations and breathing problems.
6. Exposure to chemicals
Plumbers are exposed to some chemicals used in the course of their work such as adhesives, solvents and greases. These could cause skin rash and other reactions.
7. Increased risk for asbestosis
Most municipal pipes are made of pipes even till now because they were laid years back. This is even the situation in the most advanced countries of the world. Prolonged exposure over years could lead to asbestosis or a form of lung cancer.
Sewage produces some gases that can reduce the amount of oxygen available in the air the plumber breathes in while working in a closed environment such as municipal sewers; this can lead to suffocation and death. Such gases include methane, hydrogen, nitrogen, ammonia, carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide.
A wise plumber will worry about his safety each time he leaves home for work because of the hazards enumerated about. This is certainly a source of daily stress