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Hazards exist everywhere, but especially in the plumbing business.
Plumbing techs often find themselves in unsafe circumstances, from working in confined spaces near electricity and water to exposure to dangerous substances.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, plumbing and HVAC contractors in the private industry experienced one of the highest incidents of injuries on the job in the specialty trade contractor category, with 13,360 reportedly injured in 2019, the most recent data available.
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As a plumbing company, keeping your employees and customers safe while resolving plumbing issues should always remain top priority.
1. Prepare in Advance
Possess the right tools and skills
Communicate complete job information
Approach each job proactively, so techs adequately prepare for plumbing repairs. Techs should possess the right tools, knowledge, and skills for the job to ensure safety and efficient customer service.
While some plumbing companies implemented virtual consultations during the COVID pandemic to minimize public contact, the added communication with customers gives techs valuable knowledge to help them arrive prepared. Oftentimes, the plumber will know how to fix the plumbing issue even before they get to the job.
In ServiceTitan’s cloud-based software solution for the trades, that information is readily available on the mobile app, keeping it at the technician’s fingertips, improving safety and customer service in the process.
Preparing as much as possible beforehand, including knowledge of local building codes, licensing, and other local regulations, helps plumbers complete a job safely and more efficiently.
2. Stock the Right Tools
Organize tools and equipment
Maintain orderly vehicles
Georg Efird of Blue Planet Plumbing understands the importance of keeping employees accountable for stocking and organizing tools, and maintaining vehicles.
“We hold our technicians 100% accountable for the organization and maintenance of the vehicle," Efird says. The company grades technicians on everything, from a fully stocked first-aid kit down to the van's tire treads.
A well-stocked van enables a tech to safely tackle the plumbing job without using a less-than-efficient or unsafe tool. It also eliminates the wasted time and fuel—and added risk of an accident—of driving back to the shop.
Some companies, such as Nice Heating & Air, award points to techs for clean and well-stocked trucks, which the techs can exchange for rewards of their choice. You could also award bonus compensation for the cleanest vehicle or most improved work van.
3. Wear Proper PPE
Protect from environmental hazards
Practice sanitary procedures
Plumber safety begins with proper safety gear. The right clothing, eyewear, ear plugs, respirators, boots, hats, work gloves, and other equipment ensures safety on the jobsite.
Among other health hazards, professional plumbers can encounter:
Mold from leaking water supplies
Dust from cutting pipes
Asbestos in old materials
Burns from soldering or hot water heaters
Toxic drain cleaners from DIY plumbing by homeowners attempting to clear a clog
Bacteria and viruses from raw sewage
Experts recommend following sanitary practices, such as washing hands often and avoiding touching your eyes. Employees who wash their own work uniforms should wash them separately from other household laundry.
In the COVID era, PPE such as face masks protects techs as well as customers.
Out of This World Plumbing Company in Ottawa, Canada, informs customers of its additional sanitizing practices by devoting an entire page to the topic on its website.
Before and after a job, technicians clean and sanitize tools, equipment, parts, and the company vehicle. The company equips techs with hand sanitizer, latex gloves, masks, and shoe covers.
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4. Implement Safety Precautions
Avoid occupational injuries
Use proper equipment
Besides watching out for environmental hazards, plumbers should practice key plumbing safety procedures while working.
Plumbers often climb ladders and scaffolding, use loud equipment, move repetitively, and work in confined spaces while completing plumbing projects.
To avoid ergonomic injuries, take breaks from awkward positions and practice safe lifting techniques. The federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration recommends plumbers rotate tasks and take a quick break every 30 minutes.
Other safety precautions include keeping tools in working order, using power tools with GFCI to avoid electrical shock, and employing air monitors in oxygen-deficient areas.
Wearing ear plugs or ear muffs helps dampen loud noises and prevents occupational hearing loss, one of the most common work-related illnesses in the nation, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
In addition, plumbing apps with built-in calculations help plumbers quickly figure out safe answers to urgent problems they may face on the job, such as calculating flow rate when replacing a burst pipe.
5. Dispatch the Right Tech
Match tech skills to jobs
Increase efficiency with cloud-based plumbing software
Use ServiceTitan cloud-based dispatch software to match the right tech to the job. Dispatchers can immediately see the skills required for a job and identify the right plumber for the task.
Drag-and-drop scheduling software allows your company to assign jobs based on tech skills, so you can match highly experienced techs to the most profitable jobs and assign them tasks that pose the most safety risks.
Detailed scheduling oversight enables increased efficiency and also enables dispatchers to efficiently schedule qualified techs to jobs based on location, minimizing unnecessary drive time on hazardous roads.
6. Invest in Safety Training
Refine skills and techniques
Follow company safety protocol
Make workplace safety a priority by investing in plumber safety training. Consider mandatory safety training and obtain feedback from your team on plumbing safety meeting topics. That way, everyone remains on the same page about current precautions and protocols, and knows safety ranks as a top priority for your company.
Plumber techs need to stay up-to-date on their skills, through continued education and on-site work experience. They should also possess proper safety gear and equipment to do their job safely.
Often, a plumber discovers an environmental hazard, such as mold growth, and must alert a homeowner of the health hazard. It’s imperative they follow safety protocol when tackling those kinds of serious problems.
An investment in your employees pays off in the end for any company working in the trades, says Chad Peterman, President of Peterman Heating, Cooling & Plumbing in Indianapolis. He suggests investing as much time in recruiting and training workers as on marketing your business.
“It has been the continual investment in our people that has really been the driving force behind our growth,” Peterman says.
7. Protect your Business with Insurance
Plan and protect for the unknown
Follow best practice procedures
While you can attempt to mitigate as many hazards as possible, plumber insurance protects your company in unforeseen circumstances.
General liability insurance protects your company in case your work causes property damage or bodily injury to customers. Commercial vehicle insurance covers auto accidents while coming to or from a job and theft from work vans, while property insurance covers the office and everything stored in it.
Many states require workers' compensation insurance, which ensures your injured employees get medical care and compensation for lost wages if they are injured on the job. It also usually protects a company from lawsuits, and extends the same protection to your customers.
8. Measure Company Success
Track and analyze KPIs
Adjust for growth
Track the progress of your company using an integrated software platform, so you know you're headed in the right direction and can easily oversee each plumber’s habits or routines.
ServiceTitan field reporting software gives you the ability to view and analyze key performance indicators. That will show you if a particular plumber tends to rush through jobs or if they must make multiple visits to fix one problem. There’s likely an underlying safety risk if that’s the case.
“I have real, live data, right in front of me,” says Ben Davis, CEO of Express Plumbing Service in Boise, Idaho. “It’s almost a breathing, living thing. It tells you if you’re successful or not, or if one of your technicians is successful or not—what’s his close rate, what’s his average ticket.”
Analyzing real-time data enables you to gauge your company's progress and make adjustments for optimal growth. Overworked, exhausted plumbers tend to make for unsafe situations. Keep tabs on their workloads and strategically grow your workforce as your company profit grows.
ServiceTitan Plumbing Software
ServiceTitan is a comprehensive plumbing business software solution built specifically to help service companies streamline their operations, boost revenue, and achieve growth. Our award-winning, cloud-based platform is trusted by more than 100,000+ contractors across the country.