3 Common HVAC Hazards Technicians Face
A career in HVAC entails a large scope of work and an even larger responsibility to work safely. The nature of an HVAC technician’s job puts them in precarious positions due to the areas in which they work, the inherent hazards, and the multitude of systems on which they work.
Some of the more common hazards technicians face include shock/electrocution, falls, and extreme temperatures. We will discuss some countermeasures implemented by the Hoffman & Hoffman Safety Team for a few of these common hazards. Remember, any hazard, when recognized, can be addressed making an inherently dangerous job much safer.
The reality is, HVAC work involves frequent interaction with electrical equipment and wiring. There are times when technicians must troubleshoot the system and have a possibility of being exposed to live conductors. It is imperative that technicians put controls or practices in place, such as:
- Lock-Out-Tag-Out (LOTO)
- PPE including proper arc flash gear
- Shielding (i.e., finger safe shields, rated rubber blankets, and plastic guards)
- Testing conductors prior to performing work
Technicians must be qualified to complete their work safely and trained on the controls they put in place when there is a potential for electrical contact.
Falls are a reality for any technician even when performing the most routine aspects of their job. OSHA has two different standards for implementing fall protection systems:
- 1926 construction fall protection standard of 6 feet or more
- 1910 general industry fall protection standard of 4 feet or more
Implementation of fall protection is crucial for work involving commercial heating and cooling systems. Some of the fall hazards include working in proximity of an unprotected edge, the use of fixed ladders, working off ground ladders, and access to the HVAC unit from a catwalk. Hoffman & Hoffman technicians consult with their respective safety professionals regularly to ensure that the proper fall protection is implemented in each situation.
An HVAC technician will usually find their work in inconspicuous areas of the building. Common areas such as attics and interstitial spaces offer limited access. Ironically, these areas normally do not have any type of conditioning and the temperatures can vary to either extreme based on the time of year. Let’s focus on the summer months:
Attic or interstitial space temperatures can range from 150 to 160 degrees F on a summer day, although outside air temperatures may only be 95 to 97 degrees F. Technicians must be aware of this hazard and plan accordingly to avoid and prevent heat related illnesses. Below are some preventative measures to limit their exposure:
- Implement a work rest cycle
- Place fans to add ventilation of the space
- Work within a buddy system to allow technicians to monitor each other for any heat related illnesses
- Schedule work during cooler hours of the day
With proper implementation of these hazard mitigation techniques, Hoffman & Hoffman continues to keep its technicians working safely.