In every trade, safety is a major concern, and safety is everyone's first job responsibility. Accidents, no matter how minor, can cost the technician, the engineer, the company, and the customer unnecessary losses of time and money. There is no reason to feel that accidents are inevitable and something you must just accept. Good working habits, good tools, and being vigilant to potential hazards can virtually eliminate accidents. Never do anything you feel is unsafe. When working with new equipment, instruments and tools, it is important to read all the safety instructions and especially follow them.
Most companies require some type of safety training for all their employees. In addition, some of the businesses where you may asked to do HVAC-R work at may have their own safety program that you must pass before beginning work at their site.
Most accidents are caused by carelessness, as well as lack of awareness of proper safety procedures and standards. This section covers some of the basic safety tips and procedures the installer and service technician should follow - whether on the job site or at related locations where hazards could exist; additional specific safety facts are covered in each section. It is important to read and follow all safety rules and standards.
Personal Protective Equipment
Personal protection equipment (PPE) is designed to reduce your exposure to hazards that cannot be eliminated or controlled. PPE may include equipment or devices to protect your head, face, eyes, ears. respiratory system, hands, and feet. Some devices, such as safety glasses, are commonly used, while others, such as respiratory protection, may be less frequently used.
If PPE is required for any job in the field or industry, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) recommends that all employees be trained to use the personal safety equipment.
This training may be as short as a few minutes or as long as several hours to days. The length of the training time depends on the level of hazard and the complexity of the PPE to be used.
An approved hard hat should be worn whenever there is a danger of things dropping on the head or where the head may be bumped. On a construction site, proper safety head gear is a must.
Hearing protection devices must be worn whenever there is exposure to high noise levels of any duration. These devices are of two types.
There are two main types of respirators. (1). Air-purifying respirators are ones that purify the air by filtering out harmful dust , mist, metal, fumes, gas, and vapor; and (2). Atmosphere-supplying respirators are ones that supply clean breathing air from a compressed air source. The second type should always be worn when working in a confined space where concentrations of harmful substances are very high or especially where the concentration is unknown. Remember that most refrigerants are odorless, tasteless, and invisible and can cause asphyxiation in a very short time.
Respirators must fit tightly against the skin so that there is no leakage from the outside into the face. Workers who are required to use respirators at any time must be instructed in their use, care, maintenance, and limitations.
Respirators are required to be located in all equipment rooms where that equipment contains large quantities of refrigerant. These respirators are provided in case there is a massive refrigerant leak. If you work in one of these areas, you must familiarize yourself with the exact locations respirators are located and how to quickly put them on. You may have only a matter of seconds once a refrigerant leak alarm is sounded to safely put on this equipment.
Eye and Face Protection
The majority of eye injuries are the result of flying or falling objects. Most of these objects are smaller than the head of a pin but can cause serious injury. Approved eye or face protectors must be worn whenever there is a danger of objects striking the eyes or face. Side shields must be part of any safety glasses worn, even if they are prescription eyeglasses. Safety glasses or goggles must be worn over prescription eyeglasses if they do not have side shields. Eye and face protectors come in various shapes and sizes, and some of them very specialized.
Special eye protectors must be worn when arc welding, spot welding, and burning to cut out harmful light radiation. These special face visors come with various shades of viewing eyepieces that filter out the harmful emissions. It is important to take time to identify the right one for the job. For example, never wear oxyacetylene welding goggles when an arc welding face shield is needed.
Confine long hair and loose clothing before operating rotating equipment.
Hand, Foot, and Back Protection
There are many different types of gloves used for hand protection. Some are made for special uses, such as gloves of steel mesh or Kevlar to protect against cuts and puncture wounds. Different glove materials are needed to protect against a variety of different chemicals. Choose the right kind from a dependable supplier who can supply information to lead you to the right gloves. Discard any damaged ones.
Lifting heavy objects improperly can lead to back injuries. Always bend at the knees and lift straight upward rather than bending over, which will place undue stress on the spine. There are a number of different types of back-support belts available. These should be used if heavy lifting is expected to be performed on a regular basis.
When choosing foot protection, the following guidelines can be used:
Ladders and Scaffolds
Access equipment refers to ladders and scaffolds that are used to reach locations not accessible by other means.
The following precautions and guidelines should be practiced in the use of ladders.
The following recommendations and guidelines apply to scaffolds.
Workers in the mechanical trades can be exposed to a variety of harmful substances, such as dust, asbestos, carbon monoxide, refrigerants, resins, adhesives, and solvents.
All dust can be harmful. Where dust cannot be controlled by engineering methods, an approved respirator designed to filter out specific dust must be worn.
There are two types of equipment for preventing injuries from falling.
In fall prevention, a worker is prevented from getting into a situation where a fall can occur. For example, a safety belt attached to a securely anchored lanyard will limit the distance a worker can move.
In fall arresting, the worker must wear a safety harness attached to a securely anchored lanyard, which will limit the fall to a safe distance above impact. The harness helps prevent the worker from suffering internal damage. Belts should not be used to arrest a fall because they do not provide the measure of safety that harnesses do. Where a fall-arresting system is not practicable, a safety net should be suspended below the work activity. The worker should be secured separately from the tools and equipment.
Fall-protection harnesses are designed to suspend you in a vertical position if you accidentally slip and fall from a height. These harnesses, however, are not designed to suspend you for long periods of time. In recent years, workers have survived a fall, only to die in the safety harness. The safety harness can constrict blood flow to your legs as you dangle at the end of the safety line. The restriction of blood flow to your legs can cause enough blood to pool in your legs so that you might pass out or even die if allowed to dangle motionless for a long period of time. If you are the victim of a fall and are suspended on your safety line, you should remember to move your legs to help keep the blood flowing until you are rescued.
Hot and Cold
HVAC-R technicians often work with extremely hot or extremely cold vapors, liquids, and solid objects. Similar PPE is required for both extremely hot and extremely cold work because of the potential for burns. Burns can occur on your skin from accidentally contacting either extremely hot or extremely cold material. It is easy to see how a hot material can cause a burn but more difficult to see how something that is cold can burn your skin.
When you touch something that is extremely cold, your body heat is drawn out so quickly that it causes the surface of your skin to burn and blister. Remember that refrigerant will cause frostbite, so it is important to be careful when handling refrigerants.
Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)
Material safety data sheets are required by law and have specific important information listed in specific areas so that emergency personnel can easily read them. If an area does not apply to the product, the manufacturer must mark the space as being non-applicable. No blank spaces are allowed on a MSDS. This is done so that there will not be any confusion regarding the safety or reaction to any products.