In our previous HVAC Journal article, we reviewed some of the dangers that are associated with working as a technician in this industry, and how to avoid becoming a statistic in workplace accidents. According to recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, private industry workers across the board incurred 2.8 million nonfatal occupational injuries in 2019. In the same year, there were over 5,000 deaths reported that resulted from a work-related injury. This is why knowing the safety guidelines and implementing them any time you are on a job site is critical to your well-being and the safety of others as well. This article will cover handling dangerous chemicals, handling rotating machinery, and moving heavy objects.
As a field technician you will be working with many rotating mechanical components such as motors that drive fans, compressors, and pumps. Due to their design and how much power they can produce, an overabundance of caution is advised when handling them. There are simple yet effective steps you can take to avoid serious injury, such as wearing appropriate clothing that isn’t loose fitting as well as ensuring all nuts and bolts are tight on the unit; if a shirt sleeve or jacket gets caught in motor drive pulley or coupling, a serious injury could occur before the machine can be shut off, and loose projectiles can become lethal. It’s important to remember to stand to the side of an open motor’s driving mechanism; if there was a malfunction and a coupling flew off, it would fly outward in the direction of the rotation of the motor. If a large motor is coasting to a stop, let it do so naturally; gripping the belt with your hand can result in serious injury as it could be pulled in by the momentum of the pulley and under the belt itself. If you are working at a site that will involve a lot of movement, avoid wearing jewelry as it can get caught on nails or other objects and cause injury. Occasionally your job will require you to use a grinder to sharpen tools and remove burrs, in which case be sure to use a face shield to protect yourself from flying shrapnel. In addition to working with rotating machinery, you may have to move heavy objects from one place to another; in these instances, work smarter not harder by remembering to lift with your legs and not straining your back. Wearing a back brace can greatly reduce injury as well; make use of specialized equipment and other technicians on site rather than relying solely on your own brute strength.
During the performance of your duties, you may come into contact with refrigerant vapors and other gasses in a closed space; these gasses are heavier than oxygen and displace it in such an environment so you must remain vigilant of your surroundings and be on the lookout for symptoms of oxygen deprivation, such as feeling dizzy and a numbness of the lips. It is for this reason that proper ventilation and/or cross-ventilation must be established prior to working on a project in a confined space. Specifically, if your current task requires you to solder in a closed space, ensure that you keep your head below the rising fumes and have plenty of fresh air being circulated into the space you are working in. Take time to examine the graphic to the left, which details Standard 34-1992 as defined by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). This chart outlines refrigerant toxicity and flammability, which must be kept in mind when working with these substances, regardless of whether they are in liquid or vapor form. There will also be times where you use chemical cleaners while performing maintenance on air-cooled condensers and evaporators. While most cleaners are mild, be especially wary of harsh ones used for water treatment. Handle these chemicals according to the manufacturer’s instructions before using them and commit these instructions to memory. In the event you get it on your skin or in your eyes, follow the manufacturer’s directions on how to best remedy the accidental injury and seek medical attention immediately. If you suspect a line is about to rupture, keep your distance from it as a concoction of contaminated refrigerant and oil from a motor contains acid and can cause serious bodily harm by burning your skin, eyes, and lungs.
In short, there are many potential hazards that will commonly be encountered when working as a professional field technician in this industry; however, following these safety guidelines will help you ensure that your risks are mitigated, and that your workspace is as safe as possible. We have discussed some of the recommended guidelines here, as well as in our previous article, but it is up to you to act on these safety practices for them to be effective. If you are an experienced technician who is looking to join one of Atlanta’s leading HVAC/R companies that places employee safety at the top of the list, we want to hear from you! We are currently hiring, so be sure to click the link below and apply today!