In our previous HVAC journal article, we have touched on various fundamental theories, principles, and laws as well as their real-world application to the daily operation of what we do as technicians in the HVAC/R industry. While it is critical to have this technical knowledge to be able to meet our clients’ needs and complete our projects professionally, it is equally important to do so while keeping safety at the forefront. Most workplace accidents are preventable if established safety guidelines and procedures are properly followed. However, the painful reality of taking shortcuts or ignoring these safety measures is that if an accident does occur on the job, it can ruin your career. Here at Cajun Air, we feel it is prudent to discuss some general safety guidelines you should be familiar with as a technician to protect yourself from the potential hazards of working in this industry. In doing so, you will be not only be protecting yourself, but your coworkers and the public at large as well. Some of the most common hazards that you will encounter include, but are not limited to: working with pressurized liquids and gases, coming into contact with electrical energy and working with heat and cold.
You will regularly encounter pressurized cylinders used to transport gasses or liquids commonly used in refrigeration systems such as nitrogen and oxygen; the pressure itself is not a danger unless it is released in an uncontrolled manner. While there are safeguards in place to prevent this from happening, such as relief valves and fusible plugs, it is up to the technician to handle these objects with care. If the cylinder is mishandled and the safeguards fail, there is a real danger of the cylinder bursting and causing serious injury to nearby technicians or property damage. Specifically, in the case of transporting oxygen, which is pressurized at 2,500 psig, when shipped, can cause an explosion if it is used to pressurize lines or systems and there is oil or oil residue present in them. Cylinders used to transport refrigerants should be maintained in a supine position to keep the pressure relief valve in contact with the vapor space rather than the fluid in the container. If you need to keep the pressure from dropping inside the cylinder, it is recommended to place it in a container of warm water whose temperature does not exceed 90°F.
One of the functional duties of technicians in the field is to regularly maintain and troubleshoot energized electrical circuits, thus presenting the ever-present danger involving electrical energy. Use extreme caution when working with these systems; if it is possible, turn off the power at the distribution or entrance panel when working on these systems and secure the panel or disconnect the box and keep the key in your possession until you have finished working on it and are ready to turn the power back on to it. Electrical shock can cause serious injury or even be fatal, so make sure to never be a conductor between two live wires or a hot wire and the ground. Furthermore, it is a good safety practice for technicians to use properly grounded power tools connected to properly grounded circuits when working with electrical components. If your duties requite you use a ladder, be sure to use a nonconducting one so that you will be protected from electrical shock to the ground. It is also a good idea to get in the habit of not wearing any jewelry to avoid potential electrical burns. Consider Ohm’s law, which refers to the direct, proportional relationship between a steady current through a medium and its voltage; a slip of a screwdriver while working on an electrical panel has the potential to send you to the hospital or even prove fatal.
Another elemental hazard that you will have to contend with during the performance of your duties is extreme heat and cold. These elements present their own unique challenges that are important to keep in mind so that you can complete your work in a safe manner. In the case of heat, which is most used in torches when soldering, brazing, or welding, make sure to have a fire extinguisher nearby and know how to use it before the need arises. If heat must be applied near a combustible surface or material while soldering, be sure to use a shield of a noncombustible material for insulation or fire-resistant spray to avoid a potential fire. Additionally, tubing lines that are sealed should never be soldered; instead, open the service valves or Schrader ports before working on them. Use caution when handling hot refrigerator lines, heat exchangers and motors as these can cause severe burns and leave scars. At the other end of the spectrum, cold can be as harmful and dangerous as heat; consider that liquid R-22 boils at -41°F at atmospheric pressure and will lead to frostbite. Wearing protective clothing and waterproof boots can go a long way in protecting yourself from electrical shock hazards and bodily damage. If you are working in a low-temperature freezer, keep these things in mind, regardless of what the temperature is outside as these units are functionally cold and you do not want to get caught off guard by it.
In retrospect, these general safety guidelines are not necessarily inclusive of every possible scenario or hazard that you may come across while working in the field. Your best defense against incurring serious injury or causing extensive property damage due to an accident is having a working knowledge of established safety protocols and incorporating them into your actions as you work. Be sure to tune in next time for our next article that will feature more safety guidelines and their associated hazards to be on the lookout for, such as handling dangerous chemicals, handling rotating machinery, and moving heavy objects. If you are an experienced technician ready to join Atlanta’s premier HVAC/R company who has the resources and know how to complete projects professionally while keeping employee safety at the forefront, we want to hear from you! Cajun Air is currently hiring so don’t delay and Apply Today!