One of the leading causes of HVAC health issues in the workplace is the failure to identify hazardous conditions and put a program or protocol in place to prevent them. As a result, there are many HVAC injuries and illnesses occurring annually, costing both companies and workers thousands of dollars in medical bills, injury claims, and overall well being.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, more than 37,000 injury and illness claims are filed annually in the HVAC industry, and in nearly every case, a safety or health code violation led to the incident. Below, we look at actions contractors and business owners can take to prevent these common HVAC health issues.
Every HVAC contractor needs a plan that consists of safety protocols and procedures that prevent illness or injury on the job. However, before implementing a plan, you’ll need to identify your industry’s central health and safety issues. According to OSHA, some of the main issues to address include:
Falls account for a significant portion of workplace accidents in nearly any industry, not just HVAC. The reason they occur in HVAC settings is that your crew is servicing systems on rooftops, attics, and below ceilings. These types of accidents often happen due to faulty or improper use of scaffolds, safety harnesses, aerial lifts, and ladders. In many cases, the equipment or procedure did not meet OSHA standards.
Working on HVAC systems day in and day out can put intense strain on the body. Strains, sprains, repetitive motion, bad posture, and poor ergonomics can lead to joint and muscle pain that worsens over time. Instead of correcting the problem, many workers just ‘deal with it’ every day, rationalizing that constant pain is just part of the job.
The U.S. Department of Labor reports that toxic poisoning causes 30 to 40 deaths annually in the U.S. HVAC systems regularly release gases such as carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide among other gases, into the air, so contractors are exposed to toxic substances daily. As a result, technicians can die instantly from asphyxiation, or later on from a related health condition.
OSHA reports that confined spaces is one of the HVAC industry’s most pressing hazards. Compressors, air handlers, air ducts, and other equipment are often installed in tight spaces, making it difficult to breathe. Unfortunately, many companies do not include confined space risks in their job safety analysis.
Many high-level HVAC jobs require the use of protective personal equipment (PPE), including safety glasses, protective footwear, and HVAC work gloves. This can limit exposure to extreme temperatures or toxic chemicals. When workers fail to wear the proper PPE, they risk injury or direct contact with poisonous substances.
Most HVAC systems operate from an electrical energy source. As such, there is an inherent risk of electrical shock when servicing the equipment. In addition, many of the tools that your team uses require primary or auxiliary power. While lockout/tagout can reduce the risk of injury, you need to take further measures to mitigate the risk of getting shocked.
Some HVAC jobs are outside, leaving your workers exposed to weather conditions. Therefore, you’ll need to anticipate weather hazards such as hot and freezing temperatures, rain, snow, UV exposure, high winds, and of course, storms.
The good news is, 99.9% of workplace accidents and job-related health issues are preventable. However, many of them occur simply because the company did not have a plan prepared to help mitigate these issues. Here are some ways that you as an HVAC business owner can help to prevent HVAC health issues.
A job safety (or hazard) analysis helps you identify hazards or health issues before they occur. It helps to draw the connection between the worker, the task, the tools, and the work environment. Once the analysis reveals the issues in your company, you have a foundation for developing a safety plan.
An OSHA Safety Plan is a written plan that describes the potential hazards in the workplace, and the company policies, controls, and work practices used to minimize those hazards. The plan may consist of the following components:
If you have at least one employee in your HVAC business, you are required to comply with OSHA regulations. Your employees are protected by OSHA regulations, so you’ll need to take the time to inform workers of their OSHA rights. It’s important that you also keep up to date with OSHA regulations, as they are subject to change annually.
Keep in mind that while OSHA is federal law, some states also have OSHA legislation within the state. To find out if your state is subject to federal or state OSHA law, you can check OSHA-approved state plans. If your state doesn’t have a state plan, the federal OSHA law applies.
Many of the physical injuries that occur on the jobsite are caused by improper movement and posture. Taking the time out to teach and stress proper movement on the job can relieve pain, lengthen your employees’ careers, and reduce trips to the doctor. Here are some tips to keep your joints and muscles healthy.
Running an HVAC business can be challenging. Luckily, FieldPulse can help you simplify your processes, manage your employees, and provide better customer service with our business management app. Schedule a free demo today to learn more about how FieldPulse can help you optimize your business.