Wesley Wheeler, safety director and project manager for
Cogburn Brothers, Inc., an HVAC mechanical contractor based in Jacksonville,
Fla., spoke to attendees at the Florida Refrigeration and Air Conditioning
Contractor’s Association (FRACCA)
ORLANDO - Should employees of HVACR contracting businesses
know as much as possible about Occupational Safety & Health Administration
(OSHA) safety issues? Yes, according to Wesley Wheeler, safety director and
project manager for Cogburn Brothers Inc., an HVAC mechanical contractor based
in Jacksonville, Fla.
Wheeler spoke to attendees at the Florida Refrigeration and
Air Conditioning Contractor’s Association (FRAACA) annual conference in Orlando
in April, centering his comments around OSHA updated Rule 29 CFR 1910 Subpart
S, which includes personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements.
“OSHA compliance is written in performance-based language,”
Wheeler said. “This includes the word ‘shall’ as in ‘the employer shall
furnish, shall comply,’ etc.”
He cited PPE section of 29 CFR, which states, “The employer
shall assess the workplace to determine if hazards are present, or likely to be
present, which necessitate the use of personal protective equipment.”
Wheeler said it is the responsibility of contractors to have
someone who is experienced in assessing the jobsite to evaluate it and look for
potential electrical hazards, which is outlined in 29 CFR under the following
description, “The employer shall verify that the required assessment has been
performed through a written certification.”
He also noted that the standard requires safety-related work
practices to prevent jobsite injuries. “Who has been trained in the proper
testing techniques?” Wheeler asked. “OSHA will look at the employer for
non-compliance, and not the employee.”
He pointed out some other subparts in 29 CFR that HVACR
contractors should be aware of:
• How do you know your employees are qualified to work on
• What processes do you have to ensure that a person is
properly trained and tested?
• What type of PPE are employees using, e.g., plastic face
shields that melt down or those with glass to protect in the event of an arc
Wheeler cited National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) -
70E, which outlines electrical safety-related work practices including training
and hazard risk assessment, critical elements to ensuring jobsite safety.
“Your people need to be trained about electrical hazards the
day they come to work for you, not six months down the road,” he said.
One FRACCA member asked Wheeler about an employee who is
properly trained, signs off that he is properly trained, but refuses to comply
with safety practices.
“The employer is still responsible,” answered Wheeler. “You
must show that you are enforcing the proper training for your employees.”
Wheeler used the NFPA - 70E “Lockout/Tagout” paragraph to
support the need for training. “Make sure your company has a written
lockout/tagout procedure and that everyone understands it,” he said.
According to Wheeler, when a well-trained employee complies
with OSHA and NFPA requirements, he or she shall greatly reduce the risk of
injury and fines/litigation against their employer.