Sunday, August 18, 2013

FOR OUR PLUMBING PROFESSIONALS: Important PPE Issues Associated with Electrical Hazards

Plumbing hazards can present workers with a variety of personal safety hazards. Most hazards are related to exposure to toxic materials, chemicals, or biological material. In addition to general safety hazards, plumbing-specific hazards include exposure to epoxies and glues, heavy metals, biohazard agents, asbestos-containing materials, and mold.

Additional hazards are related to wet environments. They include slips, falls, and increased risk of electrical shock. Typical PPE used for plumbing work includes footwear, gloves, eye protection, head protection, and respiratory protection.

Foot protection. Appropriate footwear is necessary to avoid slips, trips, and falls in wet environments. Workers should wear a sturdy shoe with a protective toe box and a non-slip sole. Managers also should consider potential electrical-hazard ratings on footwear as discussed earlier. The footwear also should be protected with foot coverings or should be washable when employees work in environments contaminated with lead, asbestos, and biohazard agents.

Eye and face protection. These products must protect against particulates, chemical and biohazard splashes, burns from steam, and work involving high-pressure systems. Face shields generally provide greater protection than eyewear alone. Managers should consider special eye and face protection when plumbing activities involve welding.
Hand protection. Selecting hand protection must address the hazards associated with material handling, biohazards, sharps, and high temperatures in steam systems. The protection offered by disposable plumbers gloves is the ability of the gloves to withstand viral penetration. Such gloves that pass viral penetration tests - under ASTM1671D - provide an effective barrier against bloodborne pathogens and other infectious materials

Protective clothing. Disposable protective clothing generally is required in areas that present potential exposure to biohazards, mold, asbestos, and lead. Workers might need additional protective clothing when the task involves exposures to high temperatures or high-pressure operations. Managers should be sure to select protective clothing that is appropriate for both wet and potentially contaminated environments.

Respiratory protection. Respirators are always the last line of defense against airborne hazards, such as infectious agents, asbestos, lead, and other chemicals. Managers should be aware that the use of respirators requires a written respiratory protection program, fit-testing respirators on employees, medical clearance to wear respirators, and training.