Plumbing is a physically demanding trade — and a potentially dangerous one. It can result in repetitive stress injuries, hearing loss and eye damage as well as exposure to mold, bacteria and asbestos, according to Plumber magazine. While all of this can result in expensive and debilitating health issues for your members, putting the right protections in place can help minimize risks and costs.
Here's what you need to know about managing the well-being of your plumbers and health care concerns that come with their trade.
Union plumbers have honed their skills over the years thanks to training and on the-job-experience. But while they are experts in fixing pipes, installing pumps and handling a whole load of other plumbing problems, they likely have less expertise with health care.
To help educate them, distribute newsletters with information from authoritative sources like top-quality clinics or your insurance provider about the health risks they face and how to prevent them. They may not realize that they're in danger of repetitive stress injuries or that they're exposed to contaminants that don't present any immediate pain but that can have long-term effects on their health. Along with offering information on how to identify these risks, provide advice on posture, protective gear and pain recovery.
On a related note, make sure your members know their rights related to safe working conditions, particularly if they're working on pipes at dangerous heights or in confined spaces. What is the process for identifying safety concerns and escalating them to the union?
On-Site Health Help
One way to keep plumbers healthier and happier — as well as to facilitate low-cost, high-quality health care — is to provide workplace clinics on-site or at union headquarters. As Crain's Detroit Business points out, these clinics can offer a return on investment as high as $6 for every $1 spent. After it opened its clinic, Plumbers Union Local 98 in Michigan enjoyed a 30 percent savings on health care costs, along with quicker access to care for members.
Similarly, you can offer members the benefit of calling in to such a clinic from a remote site or from home for consultation about the kinds of minor health issues plumbers are likely to encounter.
From vision and hearing damage to exposure to hazardous materials, plumbers face a variety of health concerns specific to their work. As everyday people, they also face other unpredictable issues that can impact their well-being and their ability to perform on the job. This is why when it comes to plumbers and health care, it's important to set your members up with a plan that supports them proactively and holistically.
Integrated benefits, including dental and vision options, can help alert members to conditions like diabetes earlier than they might find out from an annual checkup. And integrated pharmacy benefits can help ensure that prescribed medications from various health care providers don't combine to create health risks.
With the above guidance, you can make it easier for your plumbers to engage in their health care, helping navigate the physical challenges of their job and keeping them gainfully employed for years to come.
Phil Britt has worked as a journalist for 40 years, specializing in business issues for the last 30. His work covering the steel industry and its labor issues has been referenced in books, while his articles have appeared on numerous websites, national and international publications. Among current and past clients have been the American Medical Association, Afcom, the Credit Union National Association, Independent Banker, EH Publishing, the Southeast Chicago Development Commission, the Northwest Indiana Times and Insurance & Technology Magazine, just to name a few.