Exposure to hazardous chemical and materials such as sealants, asbestos, cleaners, and compressed gas can cause both environmental and health problems.
Health problems can include skin or eye irritation, breathing difficulty, allergic reactions, and cancer.
Environmental hazards can include fire, corrosion, and reactivity (explosions).
The types of hazardous materials on a site can range from chemical to radiation. Sewage is also considered hazardous.
Click on each type of hazard to find out more:
Radiation is probably the least thought-about hazard because it cannot be seen or tasted.
Radiation is present during radiographic testing of welds in piping, vessels, medical equipment, or pumps.
Chemicals present a significant danger because they exist in many different forms. Chemicals are not only liquids; they can also be solids, gases, fumes, and mists.
Many common products contain several chemicals. For example, some paints contain cadmium and lead.
Many chemicals pose health hazards, such as disease or burns.
Others pose physical hazards, including fire or explosion.
Some pose both health and physical hazards.
A strong HazCom program that includes MSDSs will help you identify the hazards and understand how to protect yourself. You have the right to know the hazards of all the chemicals you will be exposed to on the job.
Right to Know
Plumbers have the following responsibilities when it comes to hazard communication:
• Learn to recognize hazardous materials labels.
• Know where MSDSs are kept on your job site.
• Report any hazards you spot on the job site to your supervisor.
• Know the physical and health hazards of the materials you use.
• Know how to protect yourself from hazards.
• Know what to do in an emergency.
• Understand your employer's HazCom program.
On a construction site, all materials in containers must have a label. Labels describe what is in the container. They also warn you of chemical hazards.
Label information can be any type of message using words, pictures, or symbols. However, labels must describe the hazards present.
Labels must also be readable and easy to see.
The NFPA’s hazardous materials classification system is often referred to as the NFPA warning diamond.
The four-color diamond can be a container label. It is also used on doors to note the hazards in a room or building to aid firefighters and emergency responders.
Each section and color represents a hazard: health, flammability, stability, and specific hazards. Numbers from zero to four indicate increasing hazards.
Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs)
Each product on a construction site must have an MSDS.
MSDSs are fact sheets prepared by the product’s manufacturer or importer.
An MSDS describes the substance and its hazards, safe handling requirements, first-aid needs, and emergency spill procedures.
Responding to Emergencies
Every job site should have an emergency response plan.
Planning should be coordinated well and communicated to everyone involved. If you are told by your supervisor to evacuate a work site, go to a safe location, and wait until you are notified that conditions are safe.
Being prepared can reduce the severity of an emergency.