What HVAC Workers Need to Know About OSHA

What HVAC Workers Need to Know About OSHA

On December 29, 1970, then-President Richard Nixon signed the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Four months later, on April 28, 1971, it went into effect, slowly becoming the gold standard for workplace safety today. 2021 marks the 50th anniversary of the act going into effect and it is still the primary thing that we turn to when safety is a concern. What do Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning workers need to know about OSHA?

Risks for HVAC Workers

OSHA, in addition to providing guidelines for worker safety, also helps outline the kind of risks that an employee might be exposed to in the workplace. For HVAC workers, in particular, this includes risks such as:

● Handing refrigerants

● Operating on rooftops

● Dealing with wiring and electricity

● Working in confined spaces

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it does detail some of the most common risk factors for HVAC workers that OSHA addresses. How does the Occupational Safety and Health Act protect HVAC workers?

Refrigerant Safety

The primary safety concern when working with refrigerants is oxygen deprivation. The substance will replace the oxygen in the lungs. They are difficult to expel from the lungs because they are heavier than air, leading to unconsciousness and eventually death. OSHA regulations detail how to use these refrigerants safely, how to store them and how to react if there is refrigerant exposure on the job site.

Preventing Falls

Falls are among the most common causes of on the job fatalities, especially in the construction industry. It is so common that it is included as part of OSHA’s “Fatal Four.” HVAC workers who find themselves operating on roofs are at risk of adding to those statistics. According to OSHA, fall arrest equipment is essential for anyone working above a certain height, which ranges from four to eight feet depending on the industry, or on a particular grade of roof.

Managing Confined Spaces

Working in confined spaces is part of the job description for an HVAC professional, especially when they have to install wiring and ductwork in attics, basements and crawl spaces. In addition to the challenge of working in these small spaces, there is an increased risk of carbon monoxide (CO) and carbon dioxide (CO2) exposure if the space does not have adequate ventilation.

According to the CDC, CO poisoning is directly responsible for 400 deaths and more than 20,000 emergency room visits per year. OSHA’s rules for working in these confined spaces include specifications to prevent CO and CO2 poisoning.

Electrical Safety

Installing new HVAC units or repairing existing ones means working with electrical systems. Both present different risks, but the safety protocols for each are the same.

They may include steps from shutting off the power to the HVAC system at the building’s main breaker to testing wires to determine if any current remains or proving proper insulation and grounding in the event of an arc or shock. Electricity-related accidents might not be common enough to make it into the Fatal Four, but they are still a hazard that OSHA addresses for HVAC employees.

Staying Safe on HVAC Job Sites

As we mentioned before, this is by no means an exhaustive list. Other hazards, such as fire safety, blood-borne pathogens and machinery guarding standards, could all apply to HVAC professionals under different circumstances. The latter, for example, is a safety standard that is common for HVAC technicians working on large construction sites.

OSHA has been around for five decades as of 2021 and has evolved into the best foundational tool for keeping HVAC pros and everyone else safe while workers complete their jobs. As new techniques and technologies emerge, OSHA regulations will continue to evolve, but its primary goal, workplace safety, will remain the same as in 1971 when it first went into effect.

Product Showcase

  • Full Line of Defense Against Combustible Dust Nilfisk

    Nilfisk provides a comprehensive range of industrial vacuums meticulously crafted to adhere to NFPA 652 housekeeping standards, essential for gathering combustible dust in Class I, Group D, and Class II, Groups E, F & G environments or non-classified settings. Our pneumatic vacuums are meticulously engineered to fulfill safety criteria for deployment in hazardous surroundings. Leveraging advanced filtration technology, Nilfisk ensures the secure capture of combustible materials scattered throughout your facility, ranging from fuels, solvents, and metal dust to flour, sugar, and pharmaceutical powders. Read More

  • Glove Guard® Clip

    Safety should never be compromised, especially when it comes to proper glove usage. The Glove Guard® clip enhances safety by encouraging employees to keep their gloves with them at all times. This reduces the risk of accidents and injuries on the job. By ensuring everyone has their gloves readily available, we help promote a culture of safety and efficiency. The Glove Guard® clip is designed to withstand the toughest work environments. Constructed from robust materials made in the USA, it can endure extreme conditions, including harsh weather, and rigorous activities. Read More

  • NoiseCHEK Personal Noise Dosimeter

    SKC NoiseCHEK is the easiest-to-use dosimeter available! Designed specifically for OEHS professionals, SKC NoiseCHEK offers the easiest operation and accurate noise measurements. Everything you need is right in your palm. Pair Bluetooth models to your mobile devices and monitor workers remotely with the SmartWave dB app without interrupting workflow. Careful design features like a locking windscreen, sturdy clip, large front-lit display, bright status LEDs, and more make NoiseCHEK the top choice in noise dosimeters. Demo NoiseCHEK at AIHA Connect Booth 1003. Read More

Featured