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Whether you are a student just beginning an electrical technology, refrigeration, or HVAC training and certification school program, or are a seasoned heating, cooling, or electrical career professional, you must learn the proper safety precautions to take when working in extreme weather conditions.
HVAC, refrigeration, and electrical workers are sometimes considered to be “heroes” in their fields, because they perform work that is so essential to every-day living. Consider:
- Electricians and electrical maintenance technicians for major hospitals keep temperature-regulation equipment in good repair, which can literally save patient lives.
- Air conditioning installers and maintenance workers in hot cities like Dallas, TX, Phoenix, AZ, or Atlanta, GA are responsible for keeping homes cool, so elderly people and infants don’t fall victim to heatstroke.
- In cooler climates, heating and HVAC professionals ensure that people don’t freeze to death in their homes.
- Refrigeration maintenance workers keep big freezers running at full capacity, so supermarket or restaurant customers don’t succumb to food poisoning.
However, it is essential that you, the refrigeration, HVAC or electrical professional, do not fall victim to temperature extremes while on the job. Safety precautions are commonly taught at school; and class time is often devoted to discussing these important self-care tips. However, it is important to frequently review and practice on-the-job safety precautions so that your career after technical school can be a long and productive one.
Contrary to popular assumption, shorts and short sleeves are very poor choices for working outdoors or in hot temperatures. Besides exposing your skin to cancer-causing ultraviolet rays, these kinds of clothes do not protect you from burns or spills that may ensue when working with malfunctioning HVAC, electrical, or refrigeration equipment. It is best to wear relaxed-fit cotton pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Always wear sunscreen and tinted, UV-protective safety eye wear when working outdoors.
One of the most important ways you can stay safe while performing electrical or HVAC work in a warm environment is to keep yourself well-fed and hydrated. The physical nature of heating, cooling, and air conditioner repair, for example, often gives a worker a large appetite. He or she might feel tempted to indulge in large, calorie-rich fast-food meals, including giant sodas or coffee drinks. These are poor choices. Their high-caffeine, fat, and sodium contents will cause the worker to become dehydrated faster.
Dried fruits, nuts, cheeses, and pretzels are better choices. They are nutrient-dense and lower in salt than prepared foods are. HVAC, refrigeration, and electrical workers should also take care to stay well hydrated on the job. Fluids containing electrolytes will replace fluids and body salts lost through perspiration. Non-caffeinated sports drinks are an excellent choice. A worker should cut them with water to ensure that he or she is drinking an adequate volume of fluids. Workers should not choose sports drinks that are artificially sweetened. Some of these sweeteners produce loose stools in many individuals, which will further dehydrate an HVAC worker or electrical technician.
Taking breaks throughout the work day to rest and re-hydrate is also imperative in hot working conditions. Excess heat can cause exhaustion or stroke in heat-affected technical workers. If a worker is feeling cramps or discomfort, he or she should stop work immediately, drink fluids, and rest until recovery.
In extreme cold working conditions, such as the interiors of large industrial refrigerators, chill tanks, or a house that has been without heat, different safety precautions must be taken. The first step is to be aware of the air temperature throughout the duration of the refrigeration, HVAC, or electrical professional’s work shift. An industrial thermometer that takes accurate air temperature readings will be an invaluable resource.
Dressing in layers is also imperative. Workers should wear thermal underwear, several layers of cotton clothing (cotton allows the skin to breathe, rather than become clammy), and a good, insulation-filled work jacket. Two pairs of socks should be worn with work shoes or boots. A hat and insulated work gloves will protect the worker’s extremities from the cold.
Proper fluid intake and diet are also essential. Workers should drink lukewarm or warm fluids that do not contain caffeine. Soup, tea, and cocoa are excellent choices. A refrigeration, HVAC, or electrical professional’s meal in cold working conditions should be nutritionally dense, without high sodium levels. The worker should take frequent breaks to rehydrate, too – dehydration is as dangerous in cold as in heat.
It is essential that technicians working in the cold have an area where they can take a break and warm up. This might be a nearby cafe, a work van (the van should be driven, not left to run with the windows up, as this can cause carbon monoxide poisoning), or a specially designed “warming room.” If a worker feels his fingers or toes growing numb, he or she should stop work immediately and immerse the affected area in lukewarm water without rubbing or touching the skin. If the skin tissue is white rather than red, he or she should skip immersion and seek medical attention immediately.
A proper diet when not at work, adequate nightly sleep, and a regular exercise program will keep an HVAC, refrigeration, or electrical technician in top physical shape at all times. This will help him or her to avoid succumbing to the effects of a hot or cold work environment.
write by martinez