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Tools of the Trade

This is a good read and very educational on your company’s tools as well as yours!!!


  • Over the centuries, trade tools have been developed for handling jobs generally, and then, more refined tools were made for handling specific products and jobs
  • A plumber’s tool kit speaks volumes about his abilities, trade knowledge and experience
  • Keeping one’s tools sharp, clean and lubricated is a common sense thing to do, but it isn’t universally done these days
  • A well-made tool, properly cared, for will stand the test of time and be reliable for the professional life of the user


The term “tools of the trade” can be applied universally to all forms of endeavor. From manual labor to the most high-tech software applications, each have specific tools that are considered basic to a particular job. Some jobs require more tools than others and some tools are specific to a particular use. In the greater scheme of things, tools, both the manufacture and use of them, are what separate man from the rest of the animal kingdom. There are exceptions, of course, but for the most part this is true.

Over the centuries, trade tools have been developed for handling jobs generally, and then, more refined tools were made for handling specific products and jobs. Originally, tools were invented to solve a particular problem, whether that problem was aiding the user to do something he couldn’t do without the tool, or by making something he could do easier. As tools were invented for specific purposes, they were copied and modified further by others.  Eventually, they were acquired and adapted for use by individuals or groups, and either modified, or taken whole, into specific trades.

A plumber’s tool kit speaks volumes about his abilities, trade knowledge and experience.  What a plumber carries in his tool box, or on his truck, can tell you a lot about that person.  There are ubiquitous tools that almost all plumbers have: water pump pliers, gas pliers, screwdrivers, ball peen hammers, claw hammers, hand sledge hammers, pipe wrenches, crescent wrenches, allen wrenches, cold chisels, etc. Aside from these basics, there are tools which can form a much more nuanced picture of the person to whom they belong. These tools can tell you, for example, if that journeyman does service work, remodel or repair work, new construction, residential, commercial or industrial work or all of the above. They can also inform as to the level of expertise such tools imply.

I’m using generalities here, so please bear with me. A guy who has a full set of “easy-outs” probably has done his share of service work. Likewise, if the truck carries rodding (sewer snake) equipment and portable remote viewing electronics, it’s a safe bet that the owner or driver handles service work. Various types of drills, reciprocating saws and power drivers indicate nothing so much as a plumber’s personal preferences, but laser levels, transits and other such tools would indicate a plumber who does commercial work where the foundations and site prep are too large or broad for simple spirit levels and tape measuring. Ditto, cast iron snappers, ratchet snappers and chop saws.

Pipe threading equipment is not an indicator, because all facets of the trade, at one time or another, might require the threading of a piece of steel pipe, but a production type threading machine with a multi-use cradle of pipe cutter, dies, reamer and recirculating oiler would pretty much indicate a commercial plumbing application.

A broad selection of tools for very specific jobs might indicate a well experienced and widely knowledgeable plumber, while a sparsely filled tool kit might be a sign of an apprentice or someone who has only worked in one small area of the trade.

How someone treats their tools is another indicator. In times past, many journeymen would soak their tools in cutting oil when they went on vacation or had some time off, so that they were well, and fully, lubricated when needed to return to work. Keeping one’s tools sharp, clean and lubricated is a common sense thing to do, but it isn’t universally done these days.

“Personally, I have tools which were handed down from my grandfather and are well over 100 years old.”

Nothing says “amateur” more than someone who treats the tools of their trade as expendable. Personally, I have tools which were handed down from my grandfather and are well over 100 years old. Some are for processes and materials which are no longer used, but others, such as ceiling irons, for “yarning” a hub and spigot cast iron joint close to a ceiling where it would otherwise be impossible to do, and other specialty cast iron working tools are still viable today if the need for their use arose.

A well-made tool, properly cared, for will stand the test of time and be reliable for the professional life of the user. Conversely, treating your tools like they weren’t a part of your livelihood, and not doing everything you can to make sure that they are well cared for and in good working order is an expensive proposition.

It’s true that some tools today are relatively inexpensive, but for the most part, a good tool is pricey, and having to replace one can be an unpleasant experience. Every craftsman worth his salt has a tool kit that, in addition to helping him make his living, tells a story about him. What does your story say?

The Brooklyn, N.Y.-born author is a retired third generation master plumber. He founded Sunflower Plumbing & Heating in Shirley, N.Y., in 1975 and A Professional Commercial Plumbing Inc. in Phoenix in 1980. He holds residential, commercial, industrial and solar plumbing licenses and is certified in welding, clean rooms, polypropylene gas fusion and medical gas piping. He can be reached at

Heat Stress Changes

Heat Stress AwarenessEarlier this year California rolled out a major update to the country’s flagship heat stress program; effective May 1, 2015, this FAQ can help explain how it will be enforced.

The rationale behind the update is this: mild heat illness can quickly become severe, leading to new elements in training, shade, water, preventative breaks, first aid response, acclimatization, and emergency procedures.

Plan Requirements
There must be a written plan to establish, implement and maintain heat illness protection. It must be in in English and any other language understood by most employees, such as Spanish. Make this plan a chapter of your Injury Illness Prevention Plan (IIPP) and make it easily accessible on the worksite. This provision includes tablet and smart phone viewing of the Heat Illness Plan.

The most obvious change to the requirement is the temperature; mandatory shade is now 80°F, a five- degree drop. Keep in mind, this is the worksite temperature. Be aware of the predicted temperature but also check the temperature at work.

Furthermore, shade must be easy to reach and use. Don’t designate shaded areas where employees have to cross traffic or waterways; sit next to portable toilets, on wet ground; or too close to bushes or branches.

“Cool down” rests are now preventative, as employers need to encourage breaks to prevent overheating. Monitor and ask employees if they have any heat illness symptoms. Instruct them to stay in the shade until symptoms disappear and immediately provide first aid and call 9-1-1.

Potable water now has to be refreshing, fresh, pure, and cooler than the surrounding temperature. Check for discouraging odors, use clean containers, and use approved and tested sources (municipal water is good, untested wells are not). If using hoses and other connections, make sure the manufacturer’s label indicates approved use.
Cal/OSHA warns that inspectors will question the placement of the water container on the worksite. Water containers are smaller than shade structures and can be placed closer than shade. Consider each issue separately: shade and water.

High Heat
Changes to high heat procedures – when the temperature reaches 95°F – include observation techniques that designate who calls 9-1-1, pre-shift meetings, and preventative cool-down rest periods.
While the previous regulation required that employees be observed for heat illness symptoms, four methods are described. The first allows for the supervisor to directly observe small groups of 20 workers or less. For more employees, a buddy system can be established of employees responsible for observing each other. For lone workers, the employer may regularly and frequently check in with them by phone or radio. The fourth, “other effective means of observation,” makes the employer explain the method in use and defend how it is effective.

While all employees can call 9-1-1, the new regulation wants employers to designate a small number of employees per crew to be responsible for calling emergency medical services when necessary.

Pre-shift meetings with supervisors and employees are included in the high heat procedures. These can be merely brief reminders on heat stress topics.

A 10-minute, preventative, cool-down rest period is mandatory every two hours. These breaks can coincide with other scheduled breaks without having to be taken separately. Just be prepared to keep up these breaks to properly coincide with any overtime work, take a 10-minute break at the end of the eighth hour and another break at the end of the tenth hour.

Emergency Response
If emergency response procedures aren’t already established in your IIPP, they are now a specific requirement of the heat stress program.

For instance, the plan must take into account any remote locations and their challenges: difficult access for emergency responders, needed steps to transport employees safely to the emergency responders, and ensuring workers have a map or detailed directions for the worksite location.

Acclimatization must be part of the plan for new employees in their first 14 days, and all employees during a heat wave. This means taking extra steps to closely observe employees and lessen employee workload.

All of these heat stress components rely heavily on everyone knowing the symptoms and basic first aid responses. With these regulatory updates, it’s now clear that employees need to know about employer responsibilities: providing water, shade, cool-down rests, and first aid access. Employers have to teach workers their rights and why acclimatization is important.


Memorial Day, an American holiday observed on the last Monday of May, honors men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades. Unofficially, at least, it marks the beginning of summer.

The Civil War claimed more lives than any conflict in U.S. history, requiring the establishment of the country’s first national cemeteries. By the late 1860s Americans in various towns and cities had begun holding springtime tributes to these countless fallen soldiers, decorating their graves with flowers and reciting prayers.  Each year on Memorial Day a national moment of remembrance takes place at 3:00 p.m. local time. It is unclear where exactly this tradition originated; numerous different communities may have independently initiated the memorial gatherings. Nevertheless, in 1966 the federal government declared Waterloo, New York, the official birthplace of Memorial Day. Waterloo—which had first celebrated the day on May 5, 1866—was chosen because it hosted an annual, community-wide event, during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags. Decoration Day On May 5, 1862, General John A. Logan, leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance later that month.

“The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed. The date of Decoration Day, as he called it, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle. On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, and 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there.

Many Northern states held similar commemorative events and reprised the tradition in subsequent years; by 1890 each one had made Decoration Day an official state holiday. Many Southern states, on the other hand, continued to honor their dead on separate days until after World War I.  Memorial Day, as Decoration Day gradually came to be known, originally honored only those lost while fighting in the Civil War.  However, during World War I the United States found itself embroiled in another major conflict, and the holiday evolved to commemorate American military personnel who died in all wars.

For decades, Memorial Day continued to be observed on May 30, the date Logan had selected for the first Decoration Day. But in 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees; the change went into effect in 1971. The same law also declared Memorial Day a federal holiday.

Cities and towns across the United States host Memorial Day parades each year, often incorporating military personnel and members of veterans’ organizations. Some of the largest parades take place in Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C. Americans also observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries and memorials.

Veterans who survived the war or wars in which they served, deserve to be taken care of.  They should be at the top of any list, whether it’s healthcare, physical therapy, or other needs.  Any way that you can help a veteran by finding him/her a job, or any assistance they may need would be a big help in showing your appreciation for their service to our country.  Hire a Vet if you are a business person.

We all need to say “Thank you for your service” when we see anyone in the military.  I recently told a young man I had met that I appreciated his six years of Army service, both in Iraq and Afghanistan.  He responded “Thank you for your support.”  It made me feel ashamed that I haven’t done more to support our troops.  Let’s all show our gratitude for our warriors.

Raise the curtain for our new J&J Fire Protection, LLC blog

Clap. Clap. Clap…Hello and welcome to the new J&J Fire Protection, LLC blog. Here’s where you’ll find the latest & greatest news on everything about J&J Fire Protection, LLC– from cool product/service updates to interviews with J&J Fire Protection, LLC employees (yes, there are wildly interesting people running around here starting with me of course).

Plus you’ll see J&J Fire Protection, LLC fans/reader in the spotlight with our weekly member profiles. Along the way, we’ll try to make this blog a touch more interesting to read than your refrigerator’s user manual.

So bookmark this blog, email to a friend/colleague or add our RSS feed, and let’s pump up the volume on news at J&J Fire Protection, LLC. And of course, we’d love getting your feedback on J&J Fire Protection, LLC and this blog — and what you want to see discussed (and showcased) in the future.

Until next time friends…

J&J Fire Protection, LLC blogger