One HVAC technician suffered fatal injuries when he fell through a skylight, another was electrocuted as he prepared wiring for an air handler and another still died while working in an attic that reached well over 100 degrees.
While fatal accidents and injuries are not common in the HVAC industry, these horrible incidents from 2019 and 2020 are just some examples of the dangers technicians face every day.
As an HVAC business owner or manager, you are responsible for ensuring that employees work under safe conditions. Proper safety protocols protect your most valuable assets – your employees – and safeguard your bottom line.
Falls, electrocution and weather-related injuries happen when technicians least expect them. Consider some of the other common risks that technicians face on the job and some ways to address them:
- Respiratory hazards
Technicians can come into close contact with mold, mildew, airborne allergens, harmful chemicals and asbestos while maintaining ductwork, filters and air handlers. Technicians also risk coming into contact with the COVID-19 virus when working in homes and businesses. Since many HVAC jobs happen in confined spaces, technicians should be equipped with personal protective equipment (PPE) that includes face masks, work gloves, hearing protection, a hard hat and coveralls.
- Eye injuries
Eye injuries can result from close contact with chemicals and other irritants. Any well-equipped PPE supply should include goggles or other types of eye protection. Eyewear should be compliant with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety standards.
- Muscle and joint pain, sprains and strain
Long hours spent hunched over or crouched near a unit can lead to pain and sprains, including herniated or bulging spinal discs and chronic back problems. Encourage your technicians to stand and stretch as often as possible.
Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry, and the lack of fall protection is the most frequently cited OSHA standard violation. HVAC technicians need the proper fall protection gear, including safety belts, body harnesses and safety nets. Managers and workers should base fall safety equipment on job site situations.
- Cuts and lacerations
Even the most careful technician can get bruised or cut when working near sharp metal or using utility knives or shears. Make sure technicians understand the importance of working with caution and equip all company vehicles with first-aid kits.
- Exhaustion and Stress
Working in cramped quarters in harsh weather conditions can be exhausting and stressful for the best technician. Exhaustion leads to sloppy work, which can lead to injuries. Ensure that employees know that their health and safety comes first.
In addition to recognizing the potential problems, HVAC company owners and managers also have a responsibility to create a culture of workplace safety. Some simple steps to getting started include:
- Implementing safety protocols from an employee’s first day.
- Providing easy access to employee safety training materials.
- Using signs and posters in the workplace to communicate essential safety protocols.
- Encouraging employees to use vacation and personal time.
- Maintaining an open-door policy.
Also, hold regular meetings to review important safety processes and encourage personal protection as essential to well-being. The meetings can also be an opportunity to review The EverRest Group’s Five Critical Components of Success and reiterate the HVAC company’s commitment to earning 20% profits without high-pressure or dishonest sales tactics.
With safety as a driving factor in your business ethos, employees will feel appreciated and committed to seeing the company succeed.