Canadian Occupational Safety

Dec/Jan 2017

Canadian Occupational Safety (COS) magazine is the premier workplace health and safety publication in Canada. We cover a wide range of topics ranging from office to heavy industry, and from general safety management to specific workplace hazards.

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Page 32 of 35

December/January 2017 33 Be Productive. Be Safe. Be Compliant. The world leader in lockout/tagout products and services, Brady offers a broad range of innovative products & solutions for optimum safety, effi ciency and compliance. Visit us at for more products! SAVE LIVES. IMPROVE PRODUCTIVITY. CUT COSTS. isolating the refrigerant from what we're going to do on the system or by removing the refrigerant. We would also incorporate adequate ventilation to the area," he says. "The situation might also require some PPE: something as simple as safety glasses or gloves. It might also include cartridge-type masks or, in an extreme case, self-contained breathing apparatus." TRAINING Because HVAC workers face a wide range of hazards, they require a lot of technical expertise, says Ryan Quinn, occupational health and safety adviser at Construction Safety Nova Scotia in Dartmouth, N.S. Most important is that they know how to identify the hazards present on each particular job site. "Their tasks are quite varied and their environments can change, depending on the company they work for. You might be doing some residen- tial repairs or you may have a large insulation project at an industrial site. For that reason, hazard assessment skills would be at the forefront." Beyond knowing how to do the hazard assessment, Quinn says, workers should be trained in fall protection and fall-arrest equipment, confi ned spaces and lockout/tagout. Many HVAC instruction providers run a half-day course in lockout/tagout. Workers should also be trained in the safe handling and transport of chemicals. In terms of certifi cation, workers should have, or be working towards, their Red Seal or "journeyman" trade certifi cation. This ensures they have both the necessary theoretical and hands-on training. The program may be called Ventilation and Air Condi- tioning mechanic (as in Nova Scotia) or HVAC Technician. At BCIT, Walsh says, they spend two to three weeks on general safety alone; then, the safety procedures needed for specifi c kinds of work — for example, electrical safety and ladders — are dis- cussed and practised by the students through the rest of the course. They are trained on WHMIS and on the basics of confi ned spaces. "They have to work inside the ducts, inside refrigerated containers. They may have to go inside a cylinder somewhere." Students also learn about personal protective equipment (PPE). They should be wearing safety boots and, depending on the tasks, safety gloves. If hot work is required, they need to wear clothing that will not melt. And at all times, they should be wearing safety glasses. The failure to do so, Walsh says, is the main reason eye injuries are common among HVAC workers. "They're working with grinders, with chemicals that can squirt out of a cylinder. They can be working over their head, soldering and brazing or taking pieces of equipment apart over their heads. Anything falling into their eyes — something as simple as the dust on a piece of equipment or a fastener coming off — offers an opportunity to get hurt if they're not taking the proper precautions," he says. "We try to get into them that they need to wear the safety glasses on the job site at all times." Saskatchewan Polytechnic's refriger- ation and air-conditioning mechanic students not only receive basic skills and training, they also complete a three-day fi rst-aid course, an 18-hour introductory course on the province's OHS regulation, WHMIS legislation and PPE training, says Blakely. Students should also understand the risks of fatigue. Many contractors work in excess of 60 hours per week, which can lead to exhaustion and cause workers to make mistakes. Stu- dents should be encouraged to keep a normal schedule once they begin working and understand they may need to turn down orders to prevent becoming over worked. Generally, provincial OHS regula- tion does not address HVAC work specifi cally. To determine what regula- tions apply in any situation, employers of HVAC workers should look at the section dealing with the specifi c hazard involved, such as confi ned spaces if workers are required to work inside ductwork or fall protection if they are required to work on a roof. Two years after the HVAC apprentice's fatal fall, the employer, Thornhill, Ont.-based Design Air, pleaded guilty to failing to ensure a worker was protected by a fall- arrest system as required by law. The company was fi ned $70,000 and also ordered to pay a 25 per cent victim fi ne surcharge. Linda Johnson is a freelance journalist based in Toronto. She can be reached at Asbestos continues to be used to this day in Canada. The substance can cause mesothelioma (a rare cancer of the lining of the chest or stomach cavity) and asbestosis (a scarring of the lungs that makes breathing difficult), both of which develop many years after exposure. Here are just some ways HVAC workers are at risk. • GUNNING MIXTURES AND ASBESTOS: In the past, HVAC workers used gunning mixtures that contained asbestos because they were resistant to heat and corrosion. These gunning mixtures were used to repair holes and to line HVAC systems. While these mixtures are no longer used, the repairs and lining of years past are still likely to contain asbestos, and the older gunning mixture may have deteriorated to the point at which disturbing it releases asbestos dust into the atmosphere. • REPAIRS: Left alone, a gunning mixture containing asbestos or asbestos insulation may not do harm, but HVAC technicians conducting repairs can disturb old asbestos materials that are deteriorating with age or were incorrectly installed. Asbestos exposure then occurs as fi bres and dust are scattered through the air. Unsuspecting HVAC workers may not have safety procedures in place because they are unaware of the risk. • EQUIPMENT: HVAC workers, in the past, were exposed when wearing asbestos gloves and other protective equipment made of asbestos while working on HVAC systems. Some HVAC workers were also exposed to asbestos when using lathes and milling machines in machining factories that manufactured metal parts for HVAC systems. Source: Shrader & Associates ASBESTOS HVAC workers and exposure

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