There are some common sense safety precautions involved in any do-it-yourself plumbing job and there are some legal requirements to keep in mind before attempting the work yourself. Things such as safety tips when using tools, and the legality associated with installations especially of gas appliances. Plumbing by its nature is work done with pipes of all varieties, so you need to know what is inside the pipe – sewage? Pressurised water? Gas? Before you take any action, do be aware of what the pipes contain.
To carry out any plumbing job, large or small, the first step is to know what your next step will be. Take a moment or even longer to think about the possible contents of the pipe, and whether you need to turn off the water supply at the mains. This could decide whether your job is a successful minor operation or a complete disaster.
- Before opening a drain, THINK. Always stop and think before you undo the parts of a drain or remove a cleanout. Ask yourself if the pipe could drain in your direction. There’s not usually any pressure in drains but if one is clogged up, a lot of pressure can build up caused by the weight behind the blockage and gravity. Ask any plumber about stories of disasters they’ve heard about other plumbers or experienced themselves. The plumber will no doubt tell you about someone opening a cleanout and ending up with a firehose-strength spewing of raw sewage.
- Turn the water off at the mains. To be safe, the first step to take if your plumbing job involves or could involve water is to turn the supply off at the mains before you do anything else. The last thing you will want is to be running around in search of the mains tap in a panic if a little knob or cap is holding back pressurised water.
- Inform yourself. Before beginning work on an important plumbing job, always check with the local councils and the plumbing and building codes pertaining to the project. Find out what work can be done by a plumbing expert and what can be done by yourself and always get a permit if it is necessary.
- Eye protection. When doing any kind of plumbing work, always wear safety glasses to protect your eyes. This applies especially if you are working on something that could result in damage to your eyes; such as hammering, using a drill, snaking a drain, using a reciprocating saw. Even having to look upwards while working underneath a sink can be hazardous. The possibility of being contaminated by drain muck, or sewage splashes in your eyes is one to be wary of.
- Hand protection. Wearing protective gloves while plumbing is highly recommended because your hands could come in contact with various hazardous materials and chemicals. Gloves can also protect your hands from injury, especially if you are using a drain machine. A clever thing to do is to wear latex gloves underneath your leather gloves as a barrier against coming into contact with bacteria and funguses found in drain lines.
- Lung protection. If you’re sanding or sawing as part of a plumbing job, always use a face mask to protect your lungs as an added precaution. It’s a good idea to use one when doing any kind of plumbing work to protect your lungs from chemicals and other contaminants from being inhaled.
- Tool safety. When using power tools be careful and always follow the instruction manual from the manufacturer. One of the most common hazards for plumbers is drilling big holes for pipes with a powerful 1/2-inch power tool. Always make certain the drill cutter or bit won’t bend because if the bit stops, the drill keeps on working. When using heat on pipes such as soldering, be very careful of burning a wall or causing a fire in insulation. When working with a soldering torch near flammable or combustible materials be sure to use a heat shield.
- Read the label. When you are using machines or chemicals, always carefully read labels and instructions and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. Always read the warning labels on equipment and products and in case of an emergency be prepared, know exactly what to do.
Most professional plumbers know how deceptive a job can be. It might seem simple on the surface and not as complicated as it turns out to be on further inspection. So a major rule in plumbing is ’don’t rush into it’. Don’t go at it like a bull at a gate. Before you begin yanking out fixtures or tearing into your pipes, think the job through and make certain your plan works.
- Don’t ignore code requirements. Codes for plumbing and building are there to keep everyone safe, including you, your family and the public so don’t ever overlook them or fob them off as unimportant. For instance, don’t exclude a simple vacuum breaker in a water supply line because it can result in the contamination of the public’s drinking water. This is a common requirement of the codes.
- Don’t ignore a gas smell. Halt all plumbing work immediately if you think there might be a gas leak and if you can smell gas. Providing it’s safe to do so, switch off the gas at the mains and contact your gas company. Never try finding the gas leak yourself.
- Don’t cut blindly. Be sure you know exactly what is behind the surface before you begin to cut or drill into a floor cavity, wall or ceiling. Plumbing pipes, ductwork and electrical wiring are only some of the things that can be can be hidden in cavities.
- Don’t misuse equipment or tools. Tools and other equipment are manufactured for special purposes and it is not safe to use them in any other way than they were intended for. You can be injured or you could cause major damage by misusing your tools and equipment. Also, keep your tools and equipment well maintained otherwise they could become a hazard to your safety. Before using your tools etc, always check them to make sure they are in proper working order and in good condition.