Synonyms: Installator; pipefitter; pipelayer; pipeline maintenance and repair worker
Definition and/or description
Assembles, installs and repairs metal, plastic, ceramic and other pipes, fittings and fixtures of heating, water and drainage systems. Cuts openings in walls and floors to accommodate pipe and fittings, using hand- and power-tools. Cuts and threads pipe using pipecutters, cutting torch and pipe-threading machine. Bends pipe by hand or by using pipe-bending machine. Assembles and installs valves, pipes and fittings. Joins pipes by use of screw, bolts, fittings, adhesive, solder, braze and caulks joints. Installs and repairs plumbing fixtures such as sinks, commodes, bathtubs, hot water tanks, tank heaters, dishwashers, water softeners, garbage disposal units, etc. Opens clogged drains. Mends burst pipes. Replaces washers in leaky faucets. Secures pipes and fixtures with brackets, clamps and hangers; may weld holding fixtures to steel structural members. May operate equipment for locating leaks, test pipes and other plumbing fixtures for structural integrity, etc. May insulate piping or water tanks in hot-water or steam-supply systems.
Aligning; assembling; bending and straightening; boring; bracing; brazing; breaking (walls, floors); burning (old insulation or coatings); carrying (pipes, fixtures, equipment); caulking; cementing; chiselling; clamping; cleaning; coating (pipes); connecting; covering; cutting (pipes and fittings or opening in walls and floors); digging; dipping; ditching; dismantling; draining; drilling; driving; dumping; emptying; excavating; fastening; filing; filling; fitting; flame cutting; fixing; gluing; hammering; heating; immersing; installing, insulating; joining; jointing; laying; levelling; lifting; loading and unloading; locating (leaks, pipe position); loosening; marking and measuring; maintaining; mending; operating (tools); opening; painting; positioning; pouring (cements); pulling and pushing; pumping; repairing; replacing; rubbing; sanding; sawing; screwing; scrubbing; securing; sealing; setting; shovelling; siphoning; smoothing; soldering; spraying (coatings, paint); spreading (mortar); squeezing; taping; tapping; testing (for leaks); threading; tightening; transporting; trimming; welding; wrapping; wrenching.
Primary equipment used
Borers; chisels; drills; hammers; headlamps; leak-detecting instruments; pipe-bending machine; pipe-threading machine; pliers; saws; screw-drivers; shears; shovels; wrenches. Some of the tools may be battery- or mains-operated.
Industries in which this occupation is common
Agriculture; boilermaking and maintenance; chemical and related industries; construction (including building repair and maintenance); industrial equipment manufacturing; laboratories; municipal services; pipeline (including water, gas, oil, etc. supply lines) construction and maintenance; shipbuilding; water-heating equipment manufacturing; water desalination.
– Falls from height (from ladders, scaffolds and roofs); falls into ditches;
– Falls on level surfaces (slips and falls on wet and slippery surfaces);
– Injuries (and possible asphyxiation) as a result of cave-in of ditches;
– Cuts, stabs, pinches, bruises and finger crushing from hand tools and machinery;
– Cuts and stabs from broken sanitary china;
– Blows on the head from pipes, overhead bars, corners, etc., in particular in confined spaces or in low-ceiling cellars and passages;
– Foreign particles in the eyes, in particular during drilling or insulation (dismantling work);
– Injuries to feet from falling tools or pipe sections;
– Burns from hot or corrosive liquids emitted from burst pipes or connections;
– Burns from portable blowtorches used for soldering and brazing;
– Electric shock and electrocution from portable lamps and electric tools;
– Fires and explosions as a result of using mobile electric lamps or tools in confined spaces (e.g., inside cisterns) containing combustible-gas residues;
– Drowning in accidental flooding of pumping stations (water, sewage);
– Sprains and damage to internal organs (e.g., hernia, bursting of small blood vessels) as a result of overexertion;
– Bites and stings by rodents, insects, mites, etc.;
– Poisoning by phosgene released from chlorinated solvents at high temperatures (e.g., in the presence of flames, arcs, burning cigarettes, etc.), particularly in confined spaces;
– Poisoning by toxic gases released in sewage systems (e.g., sulphur dioxide, hydrogen sulphide, indole, etc.).
– Contact dermatitis from exposure to various components of drainage and sewage liquids, from exposure to solvents and other components from glues and pipe cleaning fluids (especially when working with plastic piping);
– Irritation of the respiratory system and the eyes from exposure to acids, alkalis and various proprietary corrosive liquids used to unclog piping;
– Oxygen deficiency or exposure to asphyxiant gases when working in confined (e.g., crawl) spaces;
– Irritation of respiratory tract and possible damage to the lungs from exposure to asbestos, mineral fibres and other inorganic aerosols or fibres when applying or dismantling piping insulation or asbestos pipes.
Exposure to a wide variety of micro-organisms, parasites, etc., in sewage, stagnant water (especially stagnant warm water), sanitary installations, etc., with risk of legionnaires’ disease, giardiasis, cutaneous Larra migrans dermatitis, etc.
Ergonomic and social factors
– Exposure to excessive damp, cold and heat (e.g., in cellars, or in construction, agriculture and other field work);
– Lower back pain;
– Heat stress when wearing vapour-barrier suits;
– Wrist problems due to overexertion in threading and cutting work; calluses on the knees (“plumber’s knee”) because of prolonged work in a kneeling posture.
- Increased risks have been reported, in the case of plumbers, of leptospirosis; bronchial carcinoma; liver cirrhosis; lung cancer; cancer of the oesophagus; oral and oropharyngeal cancer; liver cancer; non-Hodgkins lymphoma; laryngeal cancer; pleural mesothelioma; cancer of the tongue; prostate cancer.
- When working in laboratories, in the chemical industry, or in sewage systems, plumbers are exposed to all the chemical and biological hazards relevant for those workplaces. In welding, brazing or soldering operations, plumbers are exposed to all hazards of welders, solderers and brazers. In gluing work, plumbers are exposed to the hazards of gluers.