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Ask This Old House? Safety

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  • Ask This Old House? Safety

    Watched a show last week, "Ask This Old House". In that episode the plumber had trouble removing a pipe nipple from a tee in the wall for a sink drain. His 18" wrench wouldn't do it so he took another, opened the jaws and put it over the handle of the first to get more leverage. He also struck the first wrench with a hammer in an attempt to break loose the fitting.
    My concern here is that he was (on national tv), violating some very basic safety rules for pipe wrench usage. (See this website for the PDF file on proper pipe wrench usage)
    I emailed Rigid and ATOH with no response from either.
    Anyone have comments on this?

  • #2
    Yeah. I'll comment on this.

    My overall feeling is that almost ALL the DIY, home repair, home shop shows do a very poor job of promoting safety. For some of them, a mention to wear safety glasses or occasionally the mention of a dust mask or hearing protection is all they seem to think is required.

    On many shows of the DIY or TOH episodes, you will witness safety violations that would send an OSHA inspector into shock.

    Standing on the top (or next to top step) of a step ladder, working w/o hearing protection, no full face shield or sometimes even eye protection when using bench grinders. Striking tools (as the above mentioned pipe wrench) that are not meant to be struck or using a 'cheater', no safety shoes on jobsites especially when performing demolition work when the chance for stepping on a nail or having something dropped on your foot is greater. I could go on and on. We all see these violations of the safety rules and common sense and probably just ignore them as unimportant or think they are so silly no one would ever try that at home, but those who don't know better might and probably do and then end up injured if they are lucky or dead if they are not.

    I know the program directors are trying to fit an hours worth of instruction into 50 minutes of air time and they probably don't see the extra time devoted to safety as necessary.


    • #3
      In a perfect world everyone would always have the proper tool and equipment for every job they tackle. In the real world, especially the world of the homeowner DIY'er, that is seldom the case. Many, if not all, of us have used a tool at one time or another in a way that it wasn't designed to be used and lived to tell about it. When reverting to good ole American ingenuity to get a job done the secret is to use what is available at hand in the safest possible manner. All the warning labels and disclaimers in the world will do zilch to prevent an injury to someone who is inclined to do stupid things. The most important ingredient to ensure the safe and successful completion of any project is the practice and use of everyday common sense.
      I decided to change calling the bathroom the "John" and renamed it the "Jim". I feel so much better saying I went to the Jim this morning.


      • #4
        I totally agree with you folks. Watching some of these programs is enough to make an experienced worker wince. For those homeowners watching the program and using what they see as a learning tool... well, I'm surprised that the lawyer crowd hasn't found new material for court cases.

        In my career as a technical illustrator/writer and sometimes cartoonist, I have always had to pay attention to the detail of adding not only an abundance of "Cautions" and "Warnings", also the need to add safety features to those occasional cartoons. Drawing a guy at a machine without safety glasses is a good way to be sent back to the drawing board. My engineering department review, would most always take me to task if I somehow took the license to NOT include the safety gear.

        I think it would be a great thing if "Safety" were introduced into those DIY programs. Similarly, I'd like to see a revisit on some of those projects you see on "Trading Places". Some of the stuff they do you know is going to fall apart just as soon as somebody tries to use the stuff.



        • #5
          OK stupid question.....

          Why is is frowned upon to use a cheater bar to extend a pipe wrench for more leverage? I own an old home and hve a lot of old galvanized pipe i am currently slowly switching over to copper/pvc as required (drains/supply). I have in fact broken down and bought a 36 " wrench which that one even on occasion needs a cheater to break some of these joints loose. I am sure there is a reason it is frowned upon. I am just uncertain as to why this is a big safety issue? I know a retired union pipefitter that also mentioned that he would have to "sneak" the cheater when necessary as it was against the rules. I am curious as to why this is such a bad thing?



          • #6
            I worked a job once with a guy who had his jaw wired up cause the cheater slipped and smacked him in the face, and broke his jaw. That's the biggest worry. also, if working off a ladder and the thing slips you could loose your balance.

            what size fittings do you have that you need a 36 for in a house? ... 2" or larger maybe. is this on a heat line or water? If it is heating with cast fittings and you a demo-ing then just take two hammers and smack one side while you back up the other with the second hammer (safety glasses requried for this one). Once you get a crack in the fitting the tension will be relieved and it should spin off easily. you might also try a little heat persuasion on the Galv. water lines if that is you problem.


            • #7
              Actually i did not go out of my way to get the 36" garage sale find. Most of what i have is 1.5 od. just a lot of it, all original plumbing so a log of gunked up pipe. Oh and the guy who owned the house before me painted EVERYTHING. granted the 36" is a bit larger than i need but when i have that stubborn pipe it is nice to have. Plus i do some side work helping friends out and the like. Oh yeah and it came in handy when the auger i rented to dig the holes for the posts for my deck got wrapped up in the roots of a 70' silver maple we had cut down

              My curiosity was with the cheater, and that does make sense, if it slips especially if on a ladder/off balance.


              • #8
                Cheater bars are a safety no no. When you place a section of pipe over the end of a pipe wrench, or any tool for that matter, you take away the tools ability to act in the manner in which it is designed. Most all tools have a 'failure mode' or a predictable way in which it could fail. In a pipe wrench you have an i-beam handle that provides the appropriate leverage by length to the pivot point of the jaw, and thus the pipe you are working on. The i-beam is designed on a RIDGID(r) pipe wrench to 'bend before it breaks.' this early yeild happens to warn the user that they have exceeded the useful range of the tool and that they should stop applying force. As you can see from other posts on this discussion topic some people have had unfortunate accidents as a result of exceeding the capacity of the tool or adding a cheater bar.

                Adding a cheater bar limits your ability to see, and the tools ability to transmit this warning putting the user in harms way.

                So - the issue still remains that you have old and rusty pipes that need to be loosened. In a remove and replace situation like you describe cutting the pipes out is one option depending upon the connection or make-up you are planning to plumb back into place. Applying heat to a rusted fitting can often times aid by causing expansion and thus allowing the fitting to turn. Granted, in a restoration situation you may not want to use a flame. The other alternative that is actually designed for this situation is the Compound Leverage Pipe Wrench.

                The Compound Leverage Wrench is one of the handiest tools you could hope for in a situation like you described. It is a modified pipe wrench that has a trunion that attached to the pipe or fitting. The wrench uses the trunion as an extended pivot point to multiply the turning force of the wrench on the pipe by a ration of 7:1. This multiplication of force in a controled manner is greater than what you would get by using a larger style wrench or even 'cheating.'


                • #9
                  Sometimes nothing beats a cheater though. I wouldnt use one with an aluminum wrench, That could hurt


                  • #10
                    In the perfect world you would never use a cheater bar or ever tap on a wrench, do I like to do it, NO, and do it as seldom as possible,
                    I own pipe wrenches up to 36" in length, but I have had situations where you had to punt and do what was necessary, to get the job done, I had a 1000 gallon NH3 tank this fall I need to get the drain plug out of, finally it took the 36" pipe wrench and a 7' cheater bar and everything I had, it finally came lose, RECOMMENDED NO necessary yes, could have failure occurred yes, some times that is the chance you take, (I had all ready twisted off a 3/4" drive break over bar and had tryed a 3/4 industrial air impact wrench), in the real world some things don't work like the design is for them, especial when you add time and corrosion, to them,

                    I don't think that it is the design to have to heat a fitting to cherry red to remove it either is, or to use easy outs or a cutting torch, or hack saw to remove things, is it,

                    and last time I looked I don't remember seeing a 10' long wrench for removing stubborn drain plugs in NH3 pressure tanks that should not be heated,

                    I think hooking one wrench on to anther is asking for trouble, but some one said the ridge wrench was designed to bend before breaking,
                    If you can show me a person that has the strength to bend or break a ridge pipe wrench by hand with out a cheater bar, I would like to know and or see a picture of him or her,

                    do you expect the manufacture of the wrench in this day of law suits to say it is ok to use cheater bars, or to tap on the wrench to remove a stubborn fitting. or in accordance with warranties, (also is it good for the wrench, NO )

                    and you may disagree with me, but I do believe you can use a cheater bar safely, working with tools and machinery is dangerous, accidents can happen, and there are good ways to do things and poor ways, to do things, and if you don't have the right tools one should attempt to get the correct tools to do a job, but some times reality is reality,

                    and one can get hurt even if all safety precautions are taken and all the correct tools are used, yes doing stupid things will get you hurt faster, (like the one Darwin award, guy on the 20 floor, used a roller chair to stand on, on his balcony to change a light bulb). a person can do some really dumb things.
                    Push sticks/blocks Save Fingers
                    "The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good."
                    attributed to Samuel Johnson
                    PUBLIC NOTICE: Due to recent budget cuts, the rising cost of electricity, gas, and the current state of the economy............the light at the end of the tunnel, has been turned off.


                    • #11

                      I think you hit the nail right on the head with this.....

                      and you may disagree with me, but I do believe you can use a cheater bar safely, working with tools and machinery is dangerous, accidents can happen, and there are good ways to do things and poor ways, to do things, and if you don't have the right tools one should attempt to get the correct tools to do a job, but some times reality is reality,

                      In a perfect world, there would be a "proper" tool for each and every application.

                      My Grandfather was a machinist for a printing press in Chicago and when he passed away, even though i did not really know him (they moved to arizonia when I was in kindergarden and was only able to visit him a few times. Anyway I wanted something to remember him by. I was given the privlidge of taking ownership of his old machinist tool box. OLD craftsman box, Old logo. Had lots of taps and dies and such in it, a few hand tools, some files, but what really meant a lot to me is that one drawer was full of tools he modified or outright made to get his job done. I guess My point is that throughout history, and in the future, there are going to be jobs that need to be done, jobs that the "proper" tool does not yet exist. so someone will either have to make something work, modify a tool, etc.
                      And it can be done safely. When I asked earlier on this thread why cheater bars were a safety no-no some of the answers i got i expected but others i didn't. When i have to use a cheater the bar fits all the way up the handle and slips under the threaded part of the jaw on the back of the wrench. this essentially takes the torque of the section that is meant to fail " the R which i did not know" and ensuring i have three point contact (something i learned on ask this old house)never use on a ladder and never stand directly under it. always to the left as i am right handed. this method, unless i am wrong in my way of thinking, puts the majority of the pressure on the bottom of the handle while the threads from the jaw keep it from slipping. By putting the majority of the force on the bottom of the wrench and ensuring it is under those threads, it has little chance of slipping and no chance of breaking the wrench.

                      This is not something I have to do often. I am a DIY'r, not a plumber by trade so i probably run into a lot less requirements for the cheater than the pro's do, but when one does become necessary, it seems like the way i do it is safe?

                      After i came across that 36" at a garage sale, i think i have used a cheater on it once...and that was over a year ago, and that was just to break a joint loose, otherwise that 36" wrench provides more than enough leverage for those stubborn joints. the only time i usually end up using a cheater is on my 18" or 24" while helping someone out because i forgot my 36" (it does not fit in my carry along tool box)

                      Happy Holidays All
                      \"A SHIP OF WAR IS THE BEST AMBASSADOR\"<br /><br />OLIVER CROMWELL


                      • #12
                        Anything u do has risk added....


                        • #13
                          I agree that the saftey practices of the shows hosts are a joke. I practically had an anurism one night as i watched the very pretty cohost of THIS OLD HOUSE demonstrate how to cut a sheet of plywood with a circular saw. She had very long curly hair and did not have it tied back. In addition she was wearing a long sleeved shirt with the cuff turned back but not buttoned. It sure made her look cute but it was no way to dress on a job site.

                          When she bent to make the cut the very first thing I saw was her hair splayed out all over the material to be cut. It was along side and ahead of the moving saw. Several times she looked at the camera while continuing to move the saw. Her loose cuff laid directly on the base of the saw and for the life of me I dont know how her hair or her shirt did not get caught in the blade. To top everything off she was wearing sneakers the whole time.

                          I agree that using a cheater is not a good idea. But, like 99.9% of all plumbers and piefitters I have used them on stubborn fittings. A plumber I used to work with before he got hurt actually hung on a 48 inch iron wrench with a ten foot cheater pipe to attempt to loosen a siezed boiler fitting. He was quite a sight as he hung there bouncing his weight up and down. He was a bigger sight when the wrench slipped and he went crashing down to the ground with the cheater a split second behind and coming half way through his head. It was a lesson to never be forgotton.
                          Work hard, Play hard, Sleep easy.