Within a 45-year career, a construction worker has a 1-in-200 chance of being fatally injured on the job. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Construction Safety Week serves as a reminder to industry professionals that they should continue to reinforce and follow job site safety procedures to protect themselves and their teams. While Read more
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Within a 45-year career, a construction worker has a 1-in-200 chance of being fatally injured on the job. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Construction Safety Week serves as a reminder to industry professionals that they should continue to reinforce and follow job site safety procedures to protect themselves and their teams. While this is a great first line of defense, there’s also another way you can create a safer construction site: choosing safe and smart products.
As plumbing and mechanical contractors know, plumbing codes often require an end goal without specific direction on how to get there, which can force you to piece together unreliable makeshift methods that could have serious consequences if installed incorrectly. Even methods and tools that have been around a long time can be outdated to the point that they present safety issues.
By updating your workflow to incorporate modern and engineered solutions, you can better protect yourself on the job while maintaining professional and cost-effective installations. Look for plumbing solutions that comply with code regulations and go above and beyond to address OSHA requirements and eliminate risks associated with field-devised or traditional installation methods.
Those risks vary across products, as do the benefits of using engineered solutions instead. Below are some common makeshift methods for commercial plumbing installations and how using engineered replacements can better protect you on the job.
The risks of common field-devised plumbing installations
Makeshift methods are most common for two kinds of plumbing installations: pipe supports and water heater accessories. But as is the case for all field-built installations, they’re entirely inconsistent, meaning they could fail and cause harm to you or your team. Fortunately, there are better alternatives that are easily accessible and trusted today.
The most common pipe supports to be cobbled together are overhead and in-wall pipe supports. In-wall supports are often made from scrap material, such as cut lumber, tin-snipped metal studs, baling wire and random strapping material, while trapeze pipe supports might be fashioned using strut or channel that is manually cut into pieces with a variety of expensive clamp options.
When it comes to no-hub fitting restraints, it’s not uncommon for installers to use different materials like metal banding, angle iron, riser clamps and thread rods, but this is untested, unproven and costly. More specifically, makeshift no-hub fitting restraints usually fail to meet the intent of CISPI standards.
The inconsistent reliability of these makeshift installations means they could fail and cause a potential leak hazard . For in-wall supports, there’s an additional safety hazard from using several power tools to create the final product.
By contrast, several engineered overhead and in-wall supports are made of durable materials like galvanized steel so they’re strong enough to support different applications throughout the entire life of the building, reducing the risk of injury during and after installation.
For no-hub restraints, manufactured solutions take on-site cutting, bending, measuring and modifications out of the picture and replace them with an engineered solution supported by test data, torque data and product specifications that ensure the safety and reliability of the restraint’s design. The result may look something like the HoldRite #117 series, the only no-hub restraint product to have third-party testing data that shows what each product is rated and tested to.
Water Heater Supports
Water heater platforms and seismic restraints are some of the most common water heater accessories assembled in the field. Platforms are sometimes built with wood or steel, while random steel strapping or even plumber’s tape is often used to create an earthquake restraint.
But this offers no engineering data regarding the stability or longevity of the installation, which can lead to injury during installation and, down the line, leaks or even an explosion hazard if natural gas is involved.
On the other hand, professionally manufactured water heater platforms are designed for safety and strength and list explicit weight limits, so you don’t have to wonder if it’ll support the water heater. Some brands, such as HoldRite, have water heater supports that are third-party lab tested to exceed code requirements and are often certified by other entities as well.
The risks of an outdated DWV testing method: fall hazards
One of the biggest downsides of the traditional plumbing ball testing method is that it can create a high risk of falls during testing. If the test ball ruptures, floors and installers get wet. When it’s deflated at the end of the testing process, water can spray out of the test port location, too. Both possibilities create a slip-and-fall hazard on the job, especially in the wintertime.
Alternatives like help keep job site floors dry during testing by allowing system fill-up or drain-down option directly at the test tee and including a triple-seal protection design to ensure a dry, safe environment. This helps minimize slip and fall hazards caused by water or ice on the floor.
At the end of the day, the first step toward better safety is education. Education about the top risks you’re exposed to and how to reduce those risks. But knowledge must be combined with action for the best results. As you follow policies and procedures that protect you, also consider the tools that can increase your safety. Investing in safe and smart products will always pay off.
Neil Ross is a product manager at RWC — a market leader and manufacturer of water control systems and plumbing solutions for residential, commercial and industrial applications.
By: Chris Holbert, CEO of SecuraTrac Being a plumber is one of the most dangerous jobs in America. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, plumbers have one of the highest rates of injuries among all occupations. Often times plumbers are prone to slips and falls from high heights, working in confined spaces, and more Read more
By: Chris Holbert, CEO of SecuraTrac
Being a plumber is one of the most dangerous jobs in America. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, plumbers have one of the highest rates of injuries among all occupations. Often times plumbers are prone to slips and falls from high heights, working in confined spaces, and more. While plumbers have cell phones on them on the job, as well as having and wearing protective/preventative gear or equipment, it’s not necessarily the most efficient way to keep them safe or provide them tools to react in an emergency.
Depending on the job and what scenario they find themselves in, plumbers may not always have the ability to call 911 in an emergency. Or if they fall or a struck by an object, plumbers may be unconscious. This common scenario makes it impossible for the workers to use a cell phone and reach for help.
According to the Pew Research Center, approximately 95 percent of Americans now own a cell phone of some type, and more than one-third own a smartphone. Although these devices may provide many conveniences to users, in emergency situations their use is limited. Cellular devices require the user to still be conscious, or within range of the phone to call for help, making the device un-reliable for plumbers and not the most plausible option for ensuring workers stay safe.
But there’s a better solution to providing emergency communication for workers that can be easily carried or worn. The specific devices we are talking about is mPERS devices, which can automatically report an incident to emergency services so workers can receive help as soon as possible. mPERS devices, which have been used by seniors for years, are essentially a help button that can be pressed to alert emergency services that a worker needs help. In recent years, these devices have become even more beneficial outside of the senior space because they no longer require a base station device to place calls, which limited their range of use.
mPERS devices are small, portable, and lightweight. They use up-to-date location technology, and some even offer built-in fall advisory capabilities. These devices can detect horizontal and vertical movement and can initiate a call for help to emergency services without the need to even press a button. This is perfect in situations where plumbers may be unresponsive because of an accident or medical emergency, eliminating the need to call for help themselves entirely. The cloud-based technologies found in mPERS devices make it possible for Central Stations to pick up and response to the need for help as soon as possible. If a worker falls on the job, the device can report it via a text message or red flag in a software system.
The devices can also last much longer on one charge than a normal cell phone, making this another benefit of a mPERS device being used by plumbers. By having less functions, no screen, apps, or texting ability to drain battery, you aren’t constantly on them doing something. They can be turned off, but many also come with a “sleep” mode, where once the SOS button is pressed, the exact location information of the worker is sent to a central reporting station where an emergency call can be placed. There are mPERS devices on the market that can last up to 30 days on a single charge.
The use of mPERS devices can also make it easier to keep track of the number of incidences that occur, where they occur, and the type of accident that occurs. This is valuable information that can help implement newer safety tactics to avoid a repeat accident, for both workers and employers.
But not just any mPERS device can satisfy all the needs of all plumbers that will be utilizing this device. Several things should be considered before selecting a device. One of the most important considerations is looking into mPERS devices that are capable of 5G technology. By the end of this year, all major cell phone networks will fully transition to 5G technology, making out-of-date devices that can only handle 3G or 4G useless. Another consideration is the ability to upgrade an mPERS device down the line if it becomes necessary with new data networks and technologies evolving every day.
Whether it’s a pendant, clipped to the pocket or belt, etc. picking a wearable device (mPERS device) that makes the most sense for plumbers’ specific needs is an important part of taking advantage of all of the safety benefits that can potentially help save loves and improve the health of plumbers.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has moved beyond heat insulated gloves, hard hats, eye protection, etc. While these are all vital pieces of equipment for plumbers to use, they can’t prevent and protect against everything. mPERS devices are another great addition to plumber PPE that doesn’t take up space, is easy to use, and can even work on its own without a user doing anything. Plumbers, and companies, should seriously consider and look into employing these devices as a standard across their practice. Instead of being stranded or calling out for help, a worker can receive connection to emergency services within seconds and in turn, prevent a bad situation from becoming worse by just the push of a button.
Chris Holbert is the CEO of SecuraTrac. SecuraTrac® develops, markets, and sells a suite of mobile safety solutions focused on improving senior and employee health and safety through mobile, location-based technology and state-of-the-art, cloud-based platforms. For more information please visit: www.securatrac.com.