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Keeping your HVAC Team Safe

In today’s post, we will offer guidance for common safety procedures in an effort to prevent injuries to your HVAC employees in the New Year.  In the HVAC field we work in, we face an incredible diversity of temperatures, pressures, voltages, toxic gases, chemicals, hazardous materials, heights, and even razor sharp metal objects rotating at extremely high RPM’s.

Simple protection equipment for your employees like eyeglasses or goggles, hard hats, safety boots, knee pads, lifting belts, breathing masks, ear protection, gloves, and other protective clothing can keep them safe.

At times, it might sound like we’re taking about a major sports team, but we’re actually taking about your HVAC employees; and if your employees are the team, that means you’re the coach.  As the coach of your team, safety is a major concern for employees in the field. An HVAC company can implement and maintain good safety procedures by having well-informed and well-trained employees.  You can prevent common on-the job injuries by having them use personal protective equipment and more importantly – common sense.

Fact: U.S. businesses spend $170 billion a year on costs associated with occupational injuries and illnesses, but workplaces that establish safety and health management systems can reduce their injury and illness costs by 20-40%.

One out of every 10 construction workers are accidentally injured every year (HVAC is classified under construction).

Construction workers had the highest number of deaths among major industry groups with 1,220 deaths and 470,000 disabling injuries in 2000. (Source: Statistics Department, National Safety Council)

Do you have players on your team that have been in the field for a few seasons? How are their knees holding up after crawling through all those attics or kneeling down next to thousands of condensing units throughout the years?  How are your player’s backs after their daily workouts of lifting heavy objects like compressors, condensing units, and furnaces?  The back is the part of the body most frequently injured at work, accounting for nearly 25 percent of all work-related injuries.  Are you making sure your players who must contend with those hazards have the right protection equipment to avoid injury so they will be with you for this season and next?

Is your team aware that they should shut off electrical power at the disconnect switch or service panel before working on HVAC equipment?  The disconnect switch or service panel should be locked in the “off” position with a padlock and tagged (lockout/tagout) to make others aware that service is in progress.  Never assume that the equipment is “dead,” they must use a meter to verify it.

Don’t wait until you or a member of your HVAC team is hurt in the field to start working safely.  Job and construction sites are hazardous places to work.  As a coach, your attitude and commitment toward job safety will be reflected by your team.  Make sure your employees have and wear protective eyewear, appropriate shoes, a lifting belt, etc.  Whether you have one truck or a fleet of trucks, make sure they have first-aid kits and working fire extinguishers. Make sure it’s the “norm” for your company to put safety first and not just the exception from time to time.

The HVAC industry is constantly changing and following the instructions sent with the parts and equipment can save injuries and time for your  team.  Want to get even more training? There are many classes offered by manufactures, distributors, trade schools, and private organizations that cover the latest in servicing techniques and equipment.


About the Author

Tony Albers is a highly successful trainer who has taught heating and air conditioning classes designed specifically to meet the needs of today’s busy technicians and engineers.  For the past 33 years he has worked to advance the field of heating and air conditioning by teaching classes for IHACI, RSES, Southern California Gas Company, and San Diego Gas & Electric.  In the last 23 years he has traveled extensively throughout North America for US Air Conditioning Distributors and Venstar, giving workshops and seminars for large HVAC distributors and manufacturers.  Albers has been on the Continuing Education Committee for the Institute of Heating and Air Conditioning Industries and has written articles for Indoor Comfort News, HVAC Insider, and the Southern California Chapter of ASHRAE.