Year after year, a disproportionate number of plumbers suffer serious injuries when compared to most other kinds of workers.

The most recent figures supplied by Safework Australia put the proportion of serious injury claims made by technicians or tradies at 17 per cent of the workforce. Throw in a percentage of labourers who may carry out occasional plumbing tasks, and the figure could be far higher.

So what are the best ways to bring these figures down? How can we protect a group of people who perform such essential but dangerous work as stormwater testing? Read on to find out.

Common Plumbing Injuries

There are many thousands of opportunities for plumbers to suffer work-related harm and trauma. The most common types of serious injury plumbers experience are:

  • Undue stress on the body which then leads to back and spinal pain
  • Slips, trips and falls
  • Being hit by moving objects
  • Cuts, sprains, dislocations, pulled muscles and broken bones

Recently, campaigners have made efforts to focus their minds on younger plumbing apprentices and the dangers they face. Those aged 15 to 25 years old have a 75 per cent greater chance of getting injured at work, especially between 7 am and 10 am.

Preventative Measures and Safer Working Practices

Lowering the risk of a plumbing accident is key to reducing the number of injuries. Let’s start with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). As a bear minimum, plumbers need to wear:

  • Goggles for eye protection especially from flying debris
  • Rubber boots
  • Quality rubber gloves
  • A hard hat
  • Hard-wearing overalls
  • Ear protection when using power tools

Masks to protect them from getting splashed with toxic waste or inhaling dust or dangerous substances through the mouth and nose are vital, particularly for stormwater testing. Plumbers may need to wear protective clothing and carry specialised PPE for dealing with harmful chemicals.

The protection offered by any gear is only as good as its quality. It also needs to fit properly and be in good working order. Plumbers also need to maintain a set of quality tools.

Falling from heights is a very real danger in the plumbing industry. It can even lead to fatalities. Plumbers should:

  • Always wear a harness when working from heights
  • Ensure any steps are secure and free from debris
  • Use appropriate non-slip boots

There should always be sufficient lighting in the working area and constant mindfulness about wet or slippery surfaces.

Understanding the Risks and Preventing Injuries

Plumbers are susceptible to a multitude of common injuries due to the nature of the physically demanding work. Undue stress on the body is a common cause as plumbers often find themselves in awkward positions, repeatedly lifting heavy equipment, and using forceful movements. This constant strain can lead to chronic back and spinal pain which affects their overall well-being.

Additional common risks stem from using heavy equipment at awkward angles which can lead to sprains, joint dislocations, pulled muscles, and even broken bones.

Additionally, slips, trips, and falls are a constant risk in the industry due to the frequent wet and slippery environments. Plumbing jobs are often fast-paced which increases the likelihood of accidents.

First Aid Essentials and Innovative Plumbing Practices

A responsible plumber should have First Aid training and understand what to do in an emergency. That includes treating someone suffering from chemical burns before help arrives. A plumber should carry a first aid kit with instructions and the following items in it:

  • Bandages, dressings and tourniquets to stop bleeding
  • Sterile gauze pads to keep cuts clean
  • Splints and adhesive tape
  • Scissors to cut bandages, dressings and gauze
  • Water purification tablets, antibiotic ointment and painkillers
  • Eye wash solution and eye pads for contact with harmful substances

Plumbers should also participate in regular safety training programs. They should go on refresher courses so that they understand all best practices when dealing with risky situations.

This should include Job Safety Analysis, a systematic way of identifying and assessing hazards. For example in stormwater testing, a plumber needs to pay attention to additional risks from the building-up pressure, flying debris and getting fingers caught in the pipework.

Learning from Previous Mistakes

This starts with accident investigations and reporting. Safety issues are by nature part of an ongoing process. A plumber’s accident investigation plan plays an integral role in the process. The goal is always to work out what went wrong and why. It’s then possible to reduce the chances of similar accidents happening in the future.

Plumbers need to document every accident and report them as required. The recorded information should include:

  • The date, time and location of the accident
  • The names of the people involved
  • A description of the incident and the actions taken to resolve it
  • Issues that contributed to the accident

After analysing the cause of the accident, the last step is to come up with any recommendations to prevent anything similar from happening in the future. It’s worth noting that plumbers may have to report some incidents to the relevant authorities or emergency services.

Making Stormwater Testing Safer

The traditional methods of stormwater testing pose serious risks for plumbers. One of the most serious disadvantages of the traditional plumbing ball testing method is that it can put contractors and plumbers in danger of serious injury for a variety of reasons.

If the plumbing ball tears, plumbers and the job site are going to get wet. This increases the risk of slips and falls. Additionally, plumbing test balls can fail during placement, inflation and removal of the device. That can happen as a result of ageing equipment, human error or faulty gauges. This all creates unnecessary risk.

One of the more common risks associated with a traditional test ball is when it deflates after the completion of a test. It can occasionally get sucked down the pipework and this increases the risk of both injury and loss of these types of test plugs. They can get pushed down the pipe by the force of the moving water during a hydrostatic test. That puts plumbers in danger of getting their fingers sucked into the pipe when in an awkward position too due to the force of water.

K-Valve Is Every Plumber’s Number One Safety Tool

Safety comes first which is why plumbers should integrate K-Valve into their working practices. K-Valve is at the cutting edge of innovative plumbing. Its haul of plumbing industry awards is evidence of how effective it can be in saving time and mitigating the risks to plumbers.

Instead of carrying around an endless supply of test plugs of differing shapes and sizes, plumbers can get stormwater testing done with just one innovative test valve instead. Using K-Valve greatly reduces the risks of injury from sudden bursts of pressure and from getting fingers caught in plumbing work.

Incorporating K-Valve into a set of plumbing tools is an evidence-based way to mitigate the risks of stormwater testing. Gone are the days of carrying a toolbox full of different kinds of test plugs.

Contact one of the K-Valve team today and discover how you could soon be using an innovative plumbing tool that makes stormwater testing safer.