Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) technicians are responsible for installing, maintaining, and repairing heating and cooling systems in residential, commercial, and industrial settings. HVAC technicians perform an essential job, and the field is always growing and changing, so technicians are in high demand. This career offers great job security, compensation, and opportunities to solve problems, but HVAC technicians also face safety risks on the job.
As HVAC work involves lifting heavy machinery, operating electrical equipment, and handling hazardous materials, HVAC technicians face potential safety risks every day. That’s why practicing safety should be the number one priority of HVAC technicians.
What Are the Most Common HVAC Injuries?
HVAC technicians encounter professional working hazards every day, and even the most seasoned technicians can experience work accidents and injuries. This is why it’s important to keep HVAC safety risks in mind and always follow safety practices.
Some of the most common HVAC injuries are:
- Strains, sprains, broken bones, and contusions
- Stress-related injuries
- Internal organ injuries
- Respiratory system and lung damage
You can minimize the risk of HVAC injuries by following these tips.
11 Tips To Follow To Ensure HVAC Safety
1. Assess the Situation Before Starting
HVAC work can involve working with dangerous materials, tools, and systems, so it’s important to assess any potential safety hazards before starting, in addition to wearing protective gear.
Each job is a unique situation and location, so you should take safety precautions to complete it properly.
2. Follow OSHA Regulations
As a professional HVAC technician, you need to be up to date on Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations to keep yourself and others safe on the job.
OSHA regulations cover these aspects of HVAC:
- Hazardous materials
- Confined space entry
- Electrical standards
- Respiratory protection
Thorough training on OSHA regulations saves lives. Whether you work in commercial or industrial construction sites, OSHA regulations ensure that you’re not exposed to toxic chemicals or gases like carbon monoxide, don’t get hurt by heavy machinery, and don’t burn yourself with faulty wiring.
3. Always Wear the Proper Safety Gear
When working on heating and cooling systems, HVAC technicians should always wear the appropriate safety gear, including:
- Safety glasses/goggles
- Face shield
- Hard hat
- Full-coverage clothing, including long pants
- High-top steel-toed work boots
- Thick HVAC work gloves
When handling hazardous materials or working in tight or enclosed spaces, you should also wear protective gloves and masks.
4. Handle Chemicals Carefully
Dangerous chemicals are the most common cause of injuries on HVAC job sites. These chemicals can include cleaning liquids, solvents, refrigerants, and detergents.
Chemical refrigerants can lead to burns and serious injuries when handled incorrectly. Combustible chemicals can cause explosions if not handled with care.
In addition to wearing protective gear, you should never mix chemicals, and you should keep them all in their original containers. Make sure to follow the signage and instructions on chemicals each time you handle them.
If you have any uncertainty about a particular chemical substance, take the time to educate yourself about it or ask a mentor or other expert for guidance before you handle it.
5. Double-Check Your Equipment
As you travel between job sites, you might lose track of important tools. Before you head to the next job site, check that you have all your necessary tools and that they are all in good working order.
Using improper equipment can lead to accidents, so prioritize your safety and only use the proper equipment.
Malfunctioning equipment is also a major cause of injuries for HVAC technicians. Before using any equipment, check that any power cords are in good condition and that all moving parts are working properly.
6. Don’t Take Shortcuts
In addition to double-checking your equipment, don’t take shortcuts. When you’re working with electricity, chemicals, and possibly extreme temperatures, exercising caution and following procedure should be your main priority.
7. Use Proper Lifting Techniques
Technicians often need to lift heavy equipment or materials, and it’s important to use proper lifting techniques to prevent injury. This means bending at the knees, keeping the back straight, and lifting with the legs.
For very heavy objects, lift them using dollies and carts.
8. Use the Right Tools For the Situation
Using inappropriate tools can cause equipment damage, serious injury, and even death. For example, technicians should never use a screwdriver as a pry bar because the screwdriver can break and cause serious injury.
9. Use the 3-Point Rule While Using Ladders
Using the three-point rule means always maintaining a three-point contact with the ladder. This means having both feet and at least one hand on the ladder or having both hands and at least one foot on the ladder at all times.
You should also:
- Ensure the base of the ladder is at a safe angle by placing it one-fourth of its working height (length) away from the wall supporting it
- Make sure the extension or top of a straight ladder extends three feet or more above the point of support when raising a ladder over a short roof
- Engage and set all locks when using a folding or extension ladder
10. De-Energize Electrical Equipment
When working on electrical systems, technicians should always follow proper electrical safety procedures. This means ensuring that the power is disconnected before beginning work and wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
Electrical shock is most likely to occur when dealing with air conditioners, especially with a leak in an HVAC system. When water drips onto electric parts, the risk of equipment failure and shock is high.
If you’re working on a system where water is present, turn off the main circuit breaker ahead of time.
11. Take Regular Breaks
Because HVAC work is physically demanding, technicians should take breaks to prevent fatigue and injury. Taking regular breaks helps technicians stay alert and focused.
How To Become an HVAC Technician
The first step to becoming an HVAC technician is to undergo the proper training at an accredited institution. An HVAC/R technology training program will teach you everything you need to know to get started in the field, including how to safely operate electrical systems, use refrigerants, and follow other safety procedures. Secondly, you must acquire the necessary HVAC certifications. HVAC training programs, apprenticeships, and work experience can all help you get these certifications.
Pros & Cons of Working as an HVAC Technician
The main con of working as an HVAC technician is the presence of occupational safety hazards and the risk of workplace injury. Other cons are that HVAC is physically demanding and occasionally has long hours. Professional HVAC technicians must also continue to undergo education and training to stay current on the latest industry trends. But with continued education comes continued success and higher pay.
The pros of working as an HVAC technician are that the industry has a great outlook and great compensation, you earn a wage while you learn the job, you typically receive full benefits, and you can work and live almost anywhere.
Start Your HVAC Journey at Erie Institute of Technology (EIT)
If you’re ready to take the next step toward a rewarding career in HVAC, enroll in EIT’s HVAC/R Technology Program in Erie, PA. Upon completion of this 12-month program, you’ll have the knowledge and skills to install, maintain, and repair the electronic and mechanical components that keep HVAC/R systems running.
Apply online today or visit our website to learn more about our programs.
Ross Aresco is the CFO of Erie Institute of Technology. Erie Institute of Technology (EIT) is an Erie Pennsylvania technical/trade school providing training programs for medical, computer, electronics, manufacturing, and technology careers. EIT offers programs in many different areas to suit your interests and talents.