HVAC technicians live a fulfilling and rewarding profession, perfect for anyone looking for a skilled profession in the trades. But, as rewarding of a career as it is, it is a job where professionals need to maintain vigilance at all times and practice extreme safety at all times from the potential hazards they may face.
The nature of a HVAC tech’s job can put them in some precarious positions due to where they work, how they work, and the equipment they work with. Both current and aspiring HVAC technicians as well as those looking to operate their own HVAC business need to be aware at all times of the hazards they and their employees face during the course of their work day and how they can best take the necessary steps to avoid them and be as safe as possible at all times.
During the dog days of summer here in Houston, life can be a little rough for air conditioning technicians. They work long hours in hot conditions running from job to job with often very little downtown in between. All of this can put a great strain on technicians and cause a tremendous amount of fatigue. When HVAC technicians become fatigued they run the risk of making mistakes or losing alertness which won’t just result in poor service and installation but can also put them and their customers at risk of harm from many of the hazards we are about to cover, potentially falling asleep at the wheel between jobs, and dehydration.
It is important during the course of a work day for HVAC technicians and the company that employs them to take the necessary precautions to avoid fatigue to ensure safety and performance. Technicians need to make sure they stay hydrated throughout the day, take breaks for rest when necessary, don’t skip over meals, and alert their employers or dispatches when rest is necessary. HVAC employers also need to be aware of their workers’ needs and schedule their jobs accordingly.
Particularly when working on commercial heating and cooling systems, HVAC technicians will often find themselves in some fairly high environments whether they are on top of a roof or on a ladder accessing ductwork or vents in a ceiling or attic space. In these situations, the dangers of falling from a high location is very real and can result in serious bodily harm.
Any technician that will be working at heights needs to practice extreme caution. Always check and double check the location of ladders and scaffolding you need to use to ensure it is sturdy and secure to use. Always have a spotter when you can and in extremely high environments, the use of a safety harness should always be insisted upon.
In between the open flame used in some heating equipment, the natural heat that air conditioning and furnaces can produce, equipment sitting in the hot sun, and soldering (which is a practice that is sometimes used during HVAC installations and repairs) the average HVAC technician has no shortage of opportunities to burn themselves both mildly and severely.
Practicing the utmost caution around hot or potentially hot equipment is a must for technicians, especially here in Houston. Always try and make sure equipment is cool before you start working on it, but also be sure to wear the appropriate protection of heat-resistant gloves when it is appropriate for extra protection. Even on a hot day, long sleeves can help protect your arms from incidental contact with hot objects.
HVAC work involves frequently interacting with electrical equipment and wiring. One false step can mean you face harmful electrocution. Not only is electrocution harmful to the technician, but if fatigue is also a factor, a live exposed wire left unattended could also mean harm to the person they are servicing.
Electric shock can happen in an instant, and it can be difficult to tell if a wire is live or not. Therefore, safety against electrocution should be one of the primary concerns of HVAC technicians at all times. Always carry the proper equipment necessary to test the charge of wires before interacting with them and always be sure to wear protective gloves when working with electricity. If necessary, you may also consider shutting off the power to the area you are working on prior to beginning service as an extra precaution.
Safety is a very important aspect of being a successful HVAC technician and safety is also a primary focus of what we teach here at the Training Center for Heating and Air Conditioning. Our instructor, Chris Walters, takes an extensive amount of time dedicated to teaching and reinforcing proper HVAC safety to avoid these common HVAC hazards.
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