ACHRNEWS

Staying Safe - and Staying Away from Bird Poop

February 11, 2011

At the AHR Expo last week, I attended a break-out session on how HVAC contractors can become “OSHA champions” within their companies. The presenter was Sharon McGee, a Certified Safety and Health Official (CSHO). She told compelling stories that reinforced the need for safety training, and repeatedly emphasized the need for documentation to hold employees accountable for their training.

But the one thing I walked out thinking about was bird poop.

Because I also learned from McGee that dried bird poop can potentially kill people who disturb it. I was utterly clueless when McGee started talking about this, so I looked it up afterwards to learn more about it.

Dried bird or bat droppings, when disturbed, can release fungal spores in the air that causes histoplasmosis. Histoplasmosis is an infection that results from inhaling the fungus. It is generally exhibited through flu-like symptoms but can be fatal. (You can find more information about histoplasmosis at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2005-109/.)

If your people are working on roofs or around bird poop, you need to set up a safety policy so they don’t disturb the dried droppings. McGee said her policy when she ran a mechanical contracting company was that employees were not to disturb bird poop and avoid it by staying a foot away on either side. If they were unable to completely avoid disturbing the droppings, they were required to put a respirator on and wet down the area first.

As she was describing this policy, I started thinking about all the times at the gas station that I’ve scraped a little bit of bird poop off my car. But now you can bet I’ll be staying away from it as much as I can. And I’ll make sure to wet it down before I attempt to remove it.

Whether you’re cleaning your car or repairing an RTU, it never hurts to be a little more cautious. So here’s to keeping safety a top priority no matter where you are or what you’re doing.