Let’s Talk About Safety!
Back in the brutally hot summer of 2022, NADCA President & Chairman of the Board, Mark Zarzeczny, ASCS, CVI, said “Most of you and your crews are sweating it out working on homes or commercial buildings, feeling the heat and trying to get the project completed in the same time frame it may have taken just a few months ago. How many of you are on rooftops cleaning dryer vents or air handlers or duct work?”
As we move into the winter months, Zarzeczny would likely ask the same questions, as technicians try to stay warm while inspecting and cleaning outdoor HVAC systems – especially in colder climates.
But safe practices on the job aren’t just weather-related. Safety is important for every aspect of HVAC system cleaning and inspection!
Performing daily routines can become mundane at times, and the repetitive nature of certain tasks can put us in an automatic mode of performance without even thinking. Add excessive heat, cold, and exhaustion to our duties, and we have the unfortunate possibility of slipping up and having a minor or major accident in the field.
At the end of the day, a safe workplace is more productive, happy, and healthy, and that’s exactly what business owners should foster. To promote workplace safety, we’re here to share the Top 10 Safety Tips from OSHA. Review them. Memorize them. And look for ways you can implement a safety-first culture in your own air duct cleaning business.
- Conduct ongoing training. When new team members start work, run them through your entire safety protocol and get them up to speed with equipment safety. Additionally, conduct regular refresher courses, and promptly share safety guidelines that change.
- Prevent falls. Working on a ladder, scaffolding, roof, or other elevated surfaces? Make sure you plan ahead for safety to prevent falls. Include the cost of safety equipment to stop falls in job estimates. Secure the right equipment for the job early, and ensure everyone is trained to use it properly.
- Weather the heat and cold. Keep your team safe from heat exhaustion, hypothermia and frostbite, illness, and injury by providing dry clothing, water, rest, shade, warmth, and ample breaks.
- Suit up in PPE. Personal protective equipment, or PPE, is “equipment worn to minimize exposure to hazards that cause serious workplace injuries and illnesses,” according to OSHA. It can include gloves, safety glasses, shoes, earplugs, hard hats, respirators, coveralls, vests, or full-body suits, among other items. Get your team suited up for each job with the right safety equipment.
- Identify hazards. Train your team in chemical, physical, and biological hazard identification and resolution. Conduct frequent run-throughs and professional inspections. Look into illnesses and injuries, product storage, equipment hazards, and more.
- Prepare for emergencies. If an emergency like a natural disaster, fire, flood, or intrusion strikes, does your team know what to do, where to go, and how to stay safe? OSHA’s Emergency Preparedness and Response pages are filled with tips to help workers and employees across industries respond to emergencies.
- Review ventilation. Your whole team will breathe easier knowing their environment and airflow are clean and up to code. OSHA shares, “Poor indoor air quality has been tied to symptoms like headaches, fatigue, trouble concentrating, and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs.” Ensure proper ventilation.
- Keep a first aid kit handy. OSHA has a requirement that employees are given a safe and healthy workplace that is free of occupational hazards. But that doesn’t mean accidents won’t happen on the job. Employers are required to have “medical and first aid personnel and supplies commensurate with the hazards of the workplace.” Learn what that means for your business, and ensure you’re meeting necessary guidelines.
- Regulate work hours. More Americans are working long days or irregular hours. This not only leads to burnout and fatigue, it also can lead to accidents on the job or poor overall health. To promote employee wellness, review your team’s schedule. Are there enough breaks included in the day? Can you shift or swap schedules to help out an employee? Review OSHA’s worker fatigue FAQs.
- Empower employees. Encourage your employees to maintain safety standards and empower them to report hazards freely in accordance with their rights. OSHA recommends workers are able to “receive safety training in a language [they] understand, work on machines that are safe, receive required safety equipment, be protected from toxic chemicals, request an OSHA inspection and speak to the inspector, report an injury or illness and get copies of medical records, review records of work-related injuries and illnesses, and see results of tests taken to find workplace hazards.” Ensure your team has all the information they need to be empowered at work.
Each of the safety tips above apply to air duct inspection, cleaning and restoration, and there are several safety guidelines that need to be followed in our industry. For instance, if a technician is in a crawlspace or an attic, or if they put their head and shoulders in duct work, do OSHA confined space protocols take effect? How high can they climb on a ladder without proper safety measures being followed? Have they locked out/tagged out electrical supply to equipment they are working on?
As a seasoned air duct cleaner, Zarzeczny described a particular safety incident he was personally affected by: “I was training a tech many years ago. We were in a crawlspace, wearing PPE, and the conditions were miserable (many of you know the drill — foggy safety glasses, Tyvek sticking to your sweaty skin, and a soaked respirator.). We stretched a vacuum hose to its limits, and hooked it up to a supply duct with a collar. As the project commenced, the hose and collar pulled out of the supply duct, and the collar whipped by my face and sliced my nose. I required quite a few stitches to repair the damage. I had many years of experience at the time, but still made a critical error. Safety should always be at the forefront of our operations.”
Following the 10 OSHA safety tips above can give your business and employees a safety boost. As we head into the new year, let’s all make safety a priority.
NADCA Safety Manual Available for Download
Did you know that NADCA offers a Safety Manual that covers just about every possible scenario we, as an industry, encounter daily? The manual includes chapters on confined space entry, hazard communication, ladder safety, fall protection, emergency procedures, accident investigation, fire protection, and so much more. Plus, it can be fully customized to your operations — simply insert your company logo and contact information to create a personalized safety manual for any job.
While there’s a small cost ($125 for members), it’s a lot cheaper than the cost of an injury or OSHA violation! It’s available for download on the NADCA store here: https://nadca.com/store/safety-manual-download
NADCA Safety Awards
Each year, NADCA accepts applications for our annual Safety Awards. NADCA’s Safety Awards Program recognizes companies that have sustained superior employee safety and health results. NADCA utilizes standardized formulas developed by the National Safety & Health Council to determine if an applicant’s record of non-fatal occupational injury and illness incidence rate is less than or equal to industry averages. Companies able to demonstrate excellent safety records will be honored with an award.
Awards Program Criteria:
- Company must be a member of NADCA.
- Company must provide a copy of the completed OSHA #300A log.
- Applicants must pay the $150 application fee
The deadline for submitting for the 2022 calendar year is right around the corner. Complete your application by Friday, January 20, 2023 to be recognized for your efforts in creating a safe workplace!