We often discuss general roof safety regulations and hazards as a safety company. We previously focused on one roof activity, the hazards of washing roofs. We felt that rooftop HVAC work is worthy of the same attention.
HVAC technicians must be alert for potential hazards in the HVAC unit and also keep an eye out for hazards at work at height. You can avoid costly and dangerous accidents by staying focused on your day-to-day operations.
How can we ensure that our workers are safe while servicing roof units? These are the six most common dangers that can be encountered when servicing rooftop HVAC systems.
- Material Transfer
Although I am sure I have, I feel like I have seen everything. Rooftop workers are often at risk of being injured when trying to get the materials and tools they need. This is sometimes due to the nature of the job. HVAC workers can be up and down the roof faster than you realize. However, this doesn’t mean that they are immune to injury or death. Employers need to plan how they will get there. Don’t leave the job to your workers on the field. They will often win quickly if they have to do something wrong or quickly.
Freight elevators, when available, are the most convenient solution. There is no setup so it doesn’t matter how much work you have to do. They are often not always available.
What other methods can you use to safely transport materials from the roof? Is there a rough terrain forklift that can reach the roof? If not, is the property owner aware? Are you able to use a crane to lift equipment? You might be able to use them to lift tools and materials. It doesn’t matter if you don’t own anything large to lift to the roof. Perhaps it’s enough to ensure that your workers have tools belts to keep their hands free when climbing ladders. A material hoist is an option if all else fails. These hoists are quick and simple to set up, but you’ll need fall protection, such as HVAC Platform for Metal Roof, railings, or travel restraints, to operate the hoist.
- Routes of travel – Slips and Trips, fall
Sometimes, your workplace is completely safe and easily accessible. Sometimes, it is not. Sometimes there are multiple locations to work on the roof. This is when your dangers come into play. You are now at risk of falling if you travel to the edge or past skylights. Before you begin work, make sure you are familiarized with the roof’s layout and have prepared safe travel routes. You may need portable railings or other fall protection. You should not assume that a cage placed over a skylight will provide protection. Many are not intended to be fall protection, as we have previously discussed in our skylight safety posts.
However, falls are not the only issue when you travel along the route. A roof’s uneven or slippery surface can make it difficult to avoid slips and trips. (Morning dew anyone? The best way to stay safe is to be aware of where you are walking and to stick to the designated walkways established by the building owner. You might not be able to see the conduit or bubble in your roof membrane if you carry material or equipment that could block your vision. Be vigilant.
We assume that you are familiar with HVAC systems. Sometimes, exhaust can be a nuisance but other times it can be dangerous. We can live with the smell of cooking oil wafting from the kitchen. But what could you inhale if you are on the roof of a chemical or pharmaceutical manufacturer’s building? You should be familiar with the policies regarding roof work at your facility. You cannot ignore them, even if you forget a tool. Some process plants can produce chemicals that can make it worse.
- Lockout/Tag out
There are other rooftop hazards than the exhaust that don’t involve falling, just like the one that involves exhaust. These include electrical and mechanical hazards. You must de-energize and lockout equipment to repair it. This is something you should not do, even if it’s just a quick task. You can be hurt by an accidental start of the equipment. It doesn’t matter how unlikely it is. Lock and tag it out to protect yourself.
- Roof Damage
Respect the roof of someone else. You could inflict damage on the roof membrane, which could lead to leaks or bigger headaches for the owner. You should not overload one spot with materials. You should not drop or wear anything that could damage the membrane. You want to keep yourself safe, but you don’t want any problems that could cause harm to someone else’s safety or health.
- HVAC Units are available for purchase
Commercial buildings often have HVAC units, pipes, and ductwork on their rooftops. These systems are often in need of servicing and maintenance. These systems often require a temporary platform or ladder to be accessed safely.
Temporary solutions come with their hazards. Workers can slip and trip when using ladders on wet or windy days. It is possible for temporary platforms to be damaged or missing parts or they can be incorrectly installed.
It can be dangerous and difficult for maintenance personnel to access rooftop units from high above. Your roof’s membrane will be protected by a permanent, custom-made catwalk or platform.
Your employees need to be protected, regardless of how long you’ll be under a roof. Protecting your employees may not be enough. You must ensure that your employees are trained to recognize, avoid, or mitigate hazards. This will allow them to get up and do the job without any problems.