Gravitating toward risky activities on the jobsite will raise employers’ eyebrows. One ill-informed decision can have long-reaching, unpleasant consequences workers may regret for years to come. From monitoring machinery and equipment to wearing the right clothing and using common sense, there’s a lot to consider as HVAC crews go about their daily tasks.
Check out what Daniel, Josue and Matt learned during their safety talks with industry pros.
Daniel: Keeping Buildings Comfortable While Staying Safe
The Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) trade is a very important branch of construction work. It helps maintain the right levels of comfort and sanitary conditions in every household and business.
In order to provide the right temperature, humidity level and air freshness in any type of building, a series of electric, hydraulic and pneumatic systems, as well as equipment, needs to be linked together and properly set up. Yet every piece of machinery and equipment also must be accurately sized, installed and tuned. This makes the HVAC technician’s job very demanding. An HVAC tech has to be a certified electrician and plumber, as well as capable of handling hydraulic equipment.
I interviewed Ionel Popovici to learn more about safety in the HVAC industry. He said safety is the most important factor in maintaining a good reputation and successfully completing every project. Some basic tips he offered were:
- Always wear safety goggles, gloves, ear protection, respirators when necessary, safety shoes and long sleeves
- Before you attempt to work on any electrical circuit, you should make sure the power is turned off and the switch is locked and tagged
- Turn away from valves when they are open
Although it may sound like simple advice, Ionel said many issues could be avoided if people were adequately trained for the tasks they were asked to perform.
Josue: HVAC Safety Procedures
In the HVAC field, you will come across many dangers. So, for this challenge, I decided to interview someone who could tell me more about the hazards I could experience on the job and how to protect myself: Carter Stanfield. Carter has been working in the field for decades and has recently retired from his teaching job at Athens Technical College after 39 years of service. Here are a few tips he suggested…
Chemicals can be extremely dangerous if not handled correctly. Spring is one of the busiest seasons for technicians since all the coils on equipment must be cleaned and readied for the extreme temperatures of summer. Carter recommends that technicians always wear long-sleeve shirts, pants, safety glasses and gloves fit to handle chemicals.
But that’s not all. When handling the pump-up sprayer, the technician must also always depressurize the container after every use. Carter has heard of scenarios where people have almost lost their eyesight due to the hose on the container bursting and spraying coil cleaner in their eyes. Depressurizing the container after every use should help to eliminate that dangerous scenario.
Electricity has killed many technicians who are careless or just unlucky over the years. Carter recommends that technicians always make sure all their tools and equipment are grounded. Using multimeters and non-contact voltage detectors ensures that no power is flowing through anything you’re about to place your hands on. If you are working around powered equipment, wearing the appropriate clothing protects against arc flashing and other dangers. He recommends referring to the National Fire Protection Association’s Section 70E, known as the Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, for more information. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Field Safety and Health Manual is also a good resource for workplace safety measures, he suggested.
Working in extreme temperature is another hazard in the HVAC field. Carter says workers must use common sense and not work for too long a time in extreme temperatures. And, he suggests wearing appropriate clothing. When working in freezers, he said to make sure you have a second pair of clothing that is made for temperatures below zero. In the summer, he recommends trying to schedule appointments in the morning or afternoon. And when he works in attics, he takes frequent breaks and drinks a lot of water to beat the heat.
Matt: Reinforcing Strong Safety Practices
For this mission, we were tasked with interviewing someone in the HVAC field about the importance of safety in the workplace and how safety measures are reinforced.
I chose to interview Rex Coker, service manager at Athens, Ga.-based Stanfield Air Systems. Rex said that at his company, safety measures are reinforced through employee meetings, which everyone must attend regularly.
I learned that practicing appropriate safety measures is in the best interest of everyone because one mistake could be life threatening, not only to yourself, but also to your colleagues. Following safety measures includes having good equipment and tools that are working properly. Rex also believes that following safety procedures and avoiding accidents involves using common sense. For example, if a fan blade is moving, don’t stick your hand between the blades. Additionally, make sure you are not working with live electricity, which could prove fatal.