A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
Contrary to popular lore, Winston Churchill never said that. But if what we’re hearing remains true, plumbing and drain cleaning experts nationwide — considered “essential” occupations by governments at all levels — are taking that saying to heart.
Take one popular drain cleaner in Philadelphia — an epicenter of the COVID-19 contagion in America.
The coronavirus pandemic provides unexpected prospects for savvy professionals, claims Michael Williams of Just Drains in Philadelphia. His six expert crews serving Southeastern Pennsylvania from the Delaware River to Harrisburg — a sizable swath of territory — see it daily.
“This is going to turn out fantastically for the plumbing and drain cleaning industries,” he asserts. “People are flushing lots of things down the drain that should not go there — wipes, tissues, paper towels.”
A plumber with 50 years’ experience in the New York City area — certainly Ground Zero for Coronavirus infections in the U.S. — ardently agrees.
Sylvan Tieger of Bronx, New York, offers a full range of plumbing, drain cleaning, fire suppression and emergency services for the commercial, residential and institutional markets. And he’s seeing it, too.
“People are using newspapers and old T-shirts — even rubber gloves and face masks — and throwing them down toilets,” he notes.
The result? “I cannot remember ever being so busy — seven days a week, 10-14 hours a day!”
And it shows no sign of letting up.
“If your phone is not ringing now, it will be,” Williams injects. “And you must have the right attitude before answering it. When the call is given, we must answer — even during crises. It’s up to us to blend professional service with customer education.”
LEAD AND EDUCATE
Lead by example, he begins.
“Know your business — and know it well,” Williams says. “Show the right attitude to your personnel, too. And give them the leader-ship and initiative to seize opportunities.”
The education of customers is also important. Everything needs to go where it’s supposed to — otherwise, a customer’s risk of stoppages increases, he notes.
Self-evident, right? Definitely. But he says, “Simple acts of helping others save money and trouble build goodwill — and loyal clientele.”
Tieger nods in agreement and adds, “We’re uniquely equipped with the tools, training and talent to help. I recently volunteered to show one nursing home how to disinfect their sewer and waste system by water jetting and adding bleach to holding tanks.”
People remember those selfless acts in crises, Williams adds. “That’s probably why we get 85% of our business by word-of-mouth.”
EXERCISE COMMON SENSE
Above all, both insist, plumbing and drain cleaning can be done safely and without undue concern by simply using common sense.
“Some customers wonder if I’ll ever leave their bathrooms,” Williams chuckles. “That’s how thoroughly I wash-up — much more than 30 seconds per hand!”
He also packs towels and wipes to grab door and drawer handles. He never touches his face when dealing with waste. And he regularly cleans and disinfects tools.
Get reliable tools — and maintain them. Both plumbers agree that nothing is more unprofessional than “having tools quit in the middle of a job — and having no back-up equipment.”
BEYOND COVID-19 CONCERNS
Coronavirus dominates today’s headlines. But what about transmission of other common contagions, such as HIV, hepatitis, tetanus, dysentery and other diseases through wastewater?
Even before nationwide lockdowns and social distancing, plumbers and drain cleaning specialists faced health risks like these every day. Commonsense precautions still remain your everyday defense against disease.
If you wear rubber gloves while snaking lines, for instance, don’t forget protective leather gloves over them. Rubber gloves can tear in the spinning coils of cables, exposing hands to infection and injury. And at worst, you can lose your fingers in the coils of the spinning cable.
After completing jobs, thoroughly wash your hands. And never touch your face when dealing with waste. That’s why healthcare professionals nationwide reintroduced us all to two choruses of “Happy Birthday” when washing hands: Thoroughness counts!
Disease germs can also remain on surfaces. So in addition to packing those towels and wipes to grab door and drawer handles, regularly clean and disinfect tools and garments.
Health care workers, for instance, use a solution of one part chlorine bleach to twenty parts (1:20) water to treat blood on clothing. Drain cleaning cables and uniforms can be cleaned that way.
As for other concerns, a study on HIV and blood-borne pathogens for the wastewater industry concludes, “It appears unlikely that transmission of HIV could occur in a wastewater treatment setting.”
Additionally, OSHA requires employers of health care workers to have their employees inoculated for Hepatitis B. A number of large plumbing contractors are already doing the same for their employees. And building maintenance personnel might consider that, too.
BACK TO THE FUTURE
“You can’t fix any coronavirus concerns by simply googling or tweeting,” Williams says. “You need more than a smart phone — you need smarts!”
And those come from attitude, experience, proper equipment and sound judgment.
Drain cleaning experts, he adds, must also cultivate a caring, selfless state of mind — professionally, mentally, physically and, yes, spiritually.
The current crisis demands both courage and common sense, both plumbers agree.
“Be prepared and ready to take care of the needs of the customers — because our customers need us.”
And your business will take care of itself, even during times of crisis, as we at General Pipe Cleaners are seeing.