For HVAC contractors, safety gear is a must. With so many different duties, and an enormous variety of safety gear options out there, contractors should certainly consider equipping their techs with eye and face protection, head protection, hand protection, protective footwear, fall protection, hearing protection, respiratory protection, and other personal protective equipment (PPE) before entering the field.
A variety of measures should be taken in order to keep technicians safe on the job. Before gearing them up, Heather Hoile, senior digital marketing strategist, Grainger, suggests conducting a hazard assessment to identify the proper PPE needed for a technician to safely conduct his or her work.
“HVAC technicians are exposed to a variety of on-the-job hazards that include electrocution, exposure to carbon monoxide (CO) and other hazardous gases, falls from heights, exposure to chemicals, cuts and scrapes from sharp edges, asbestos, mold, and extreme weather conditions, just to name a few. A hazard assessment helps techs identify the type of hazards they may be exposed to while conducting specific tasks. The hazard analysis assists in identifying the proper PPE that may be required to safely perform the required tasks,” Hoile said.
Eye protection, such as glasses, goggles, and face shields, helps keep debris out of technicians’ eyes, and while there are many different versions out there, it’s imperative to have at least one.
“It’s crucial to wear safety glasses when drilling through sheet metal,” said Paul Sammataro, owner of Samm’s Heating and Air Conditioning in Plano, Texas. “It prevents any metal shards from getting in your eyes.”
HVAC technicians are 100 percent dependent on their hands, which is why it’s imperative to keep them protected. Various styles of gloves, such as antistatic gloves, chemical resistant gloves, coated gloves, electrical gloves, and cut-resistant gloves, help prevent cuts, chemical interactions or burns, electrical shocks, or thermal burns.
In addition to their hands, it’s important that techs’ feet are properly covered and protected, as well.
“To prevent electrical hazards, we are required to wear proper footwear such as rubber-soled boots,” said Aaron Florio, warranty manager, Service Champions Heating & Air Conditioning, Brea, California.
Proper-fitting boots that keep feet protected and insulated are key and integral components in every technician’s uniform. Both steel-toed and plain-toed PVC rubber boots that are slip-resistant and waterproof are common choices.
While hearing protection was once something many technicians overlooked, it’s now an essential part of PPE for contractors. Ear muffs and plugs, ear plug dispensers, electronic ear muffs and plugs, and even ear plug testing systems will keep technicians’ hearing protected while on the job.
“Hearing loud noises all day takes a toll on your hearing,” said John Aliano, owner of Aksarben American Residential Services (ARS) of Omaha, Nebraska. “Back in the day, we didn’t think much about it, but now, those who didn’t wear earplugs are suffering from hearing loss from the years of continuous loud noises. People are more aware of that now and know we need to have hearing protection.”
Head protection and comfort wear, such as hard hats, a cooling sweatband, a faceshield that attaches to the hard hat, hard hat ear muffs, chin straps, and more, should be considered, as well.
While interviewing technicians, one of the most common pieces of safety equipment they mentioned was a respirator. Respirators keep technicians from inhaling hazardous materials or chemicals, and seeing that they are interacting with them constantly, this PPE is a must. Some technicians may prefer basic, disposable respirators, but there are many other options, such as full-face respirators, half mask respirators, and supplied-air respirators available, as well.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), 359 of 899 total deaths in construction in 2014 were due to falls, and the No. 1 frequently cited OSHA standard violated was fall protection. These numbers don’t lie, and with technicians working at all heights, it’s crucial to keep them safe at all costs.
LadderPort Ladder Receivers permanently mount to the side of a building and help hold an extension ladder in place while their hooks prevent the ladder from falling backward, and side plates keep them from falling sideways. No matter the weather conditions, these receivers are gripped and remain stationary. Technicians may feel safer as they lean toward a building, and these units make it safer to ascend and descend while carrying tools.
Roof hatchets are hard to navigate in and out of. Roof hatch grab bars without a cage are permanently mounted to the roof hatch with no moving parts. These grab bars also provide hand stops to keep techs’ hands from slipping off wet or slick rails.
According to LadderPort reps, “In the past few months, the trend seems to favor the caged roof hatch grab bars with gates as several OSHA inspectors require the full cage and gate.”
Caged roof hatch grab bars provide a safe hatch enclosure and make it easier for individuals to grab onto something when transitioning in and out of roof hatches. The bars are adjustable, and an adjustable self-closing gate is an option and strongly recommended for full OSHA compliance.
Scaling a ladder with one hand while simultaneously carrying a tool box up the ladder is now unnecessary. LadderPort’s Cranky Portable Winch System was designed to easily and safely haul items up to rooftops. It slips on and off the building’s permanently mounted Cranky Build Post, Port-A-Post, or Cranky Truck or Van Mount Post. This allows items to be sent to the roof without the need of a crane or second technician. Furthermore, it prevents back injuries, since technicians aren’t required to haul heavy tools or equipment up a ladder.
Ladder alternatives, such as aerial work platforms or other forms of access equipment that help technicians work safely at any height, are available, as well. JLG’s low-level access or scissor lift lines are commonly used by contractors for indoor facility maintenance work and serve as alternatives to ladders and scaffolding.
Non-powered EcoLifts, Push Around Mast Lifts, and LiftPod Personal Portable Lifts are suitable for low-level work that keeps you safely enclosed within the lift itself, lessening the likelihood for falls. In addition, their scissor lifts are designed for bigger and higher jobs. The Electric Powered Scissor Lifts offer longer runtimes that vary in working heights, and the Engine Powered Scissor Lifts increase lift capacities and offer larger platforms with more work space.
Fall equipment should be deemed essential to you and your technicians, especially noting the statistics from OSHA.
So, the next time you’re stocking your technicians with new PPE, make sure you’re including a majority of these options to keep your employees safe, protected, and secure on the job.
Publication date: 12/19/2016