What Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Should Your Technicians Be Using?
Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) professionals are faced with hazards on a daily basis. As an HVAC professional, you’re exposed to significant jobsite hazards. You commonly face high pressures and extreme temperatures. You deal with moving parts and electrical currents. You also face working at heights and in tight places using tools that can become hazards themselves. HVAC safety guidelines call for workers to use common sense, analyze potential hazards, and use personal protective equipment (PPE) at all times. Using proper PPE can help prevent injuries and loss of valuable work time.
OSHA estimates that over three million workers are at risk for job-related eye injuries, and more than 2,000 are actually injured every business day. Of these injuries, 10 to 20% result in temporary or permanent vision loss. Approximately 90% of these injuries are preventable with proper eye protection.
There are plenty of eye-injury risks in HVAC work. Cutting, drilling, grinding and applying finishes are daily tasks. They’re also hazardous to your eyes. Common eye-protection gear includes impact-resistant glasses with side shields, wraparound goggles, and full-face screens and visors. It’s a good practice to put on eye protection at the start of your job and keep it on until you are finished.
Hearing damage usually happens after long-term and consistent high-decibel noise exposure. It’s rare for a single event to damage your hearing permanently. Over the course of many months or years, working in a noisy environment like HVAC can result in hearing loss.
You have two main hearing protection types following HVAC safety guidelines. The first are earplugs, while the second is ear muffs. Plugs are suitable to filter general noise but don’t give the same protection that ear muffs do.
Hand and Foot Protection
Two common HVAC-related injuries happen to your hands and feet. Hands are more likely to get cut or burned, while feet suffer crushing, twist, and sprain injuries.
HVAC gloves range in materials from leather and rubber to insulated materials. PPE footwear can be as simple as steel-toed shoes, slip and shock resistant shoes, or shoes that have ankle or metatarsal support. Approved footwear typically has OSHA-certification labels.
Head injuries can be severe, and HVAC workers are regularly susceptible to them. They’re easily preventable as long as you’re wearing head protection.
An approved hard hat prevents collisions when you suddenly raise and strike an overhead object.
To give you the best protection, make sure your approved hard hat fits right, is not modified in any way, and is kept in good shape. Most HVAC technicians wear plastic hard hats, as metal ones conduct electricity.
HVAC jobs can be dusty places with chemical and toxic odors. You have fine particles flying from fabrication and noxious fumes from paints and sealants. All of this gets into vulnerable lungs.
Like hearing protection, you have two pieces of breathing gear. One is a disposable dust mask. The other is a filtered respirator. Masks are fine for quick and dusty jobs, but there’s nothing like a HEPA-filtered respirator to give you fume protection.
Most workers now wear high-visibility clothing on all construction sites, regardless of what specific jobs they hold. High visibility clothing makes sense, as you never know when you might be around traffic or need to be seen by a coworker.