Working on properties that were built pre-2000 carries the inherent risk of disturbing asbestos containing materials. This needs to be highlighted for plumbers and gas fitters, as asbestos was used for firestopping and heat insulation. It was common to have an asbestos cement backboard for a boiler, airing cupboard lined with asbestos cement panels and heating pipes sprayed with asbestos insulation.
Asbestos should not be disturbed, and if there is an accidental release of particles the victims see no injury. They don’t need to see a first aider or go to hospital for immediate treatment so often the incident doesn’t get reported. In fact the severity of disturbing asbestos and the reporting methods can deter tradespeople from reporting accidental release.
Asbestos exposure can cause occupational diseases along with exposure to solvents, adhesives, biological waste and lead from removing or working with old pipework. Occupational diseases are also a threat from rodents in contaminated water, bacteria’s, fungi, mould and viruses.
As well as occupational hazards plumbers and gas fitters are also exposed to construction risks such as hand arm vibration, falls from height, working in confined spaces, Manual handling, RSIs, hand injuries, eye injuries and hearing loss.