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What You Need to Know about HVAC Safety in the Workplace

workplace hvac safety

For most of us, it is nearly impossible to imagine life without heating and air conditioning. We take the presence of a functional HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) unit for granted both at home and at the office.

And as long as the hot or cold air keeps pumping out, we probably don't think to check under the hood to find out if all is truly well and safe. But this can be a costly as well as a dangerous mistake. With the rising costs of liability insurance, HVAC safety is of particular importance today for employers throughout North America.

In this post, learn what you need to know about improving and maintaining HVAC safety in the workplace to ensure you and your employees are protected.

CDC Guidelines for HVAC Safety

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) outlines some of the key components to maintaining the safest HVAC system:

  • HVAC equipment maintenance

  • Design of the ventilation system

  • Exhaust rate monitoring

  • Air quality monitoring (indoor, outdoor)

HVAC Equipment Maintenance

There are a number of issues that can arise when HVAC unit maintenance is sporadic or absent. Each one has its own unique associated dangers.

Electricity

If there is a mismatch between the capacity of the HVAC unit and the workplace demand, this can cause blown fuses and damage to the compressor, fan controls, electrical wires, and contacts. Corroded, pitted, or stripped wires or contacts in particular are a leading cause of electrical fires.

Toxic Leaks

Leaks are always a danger when it comes to using an HVAC system at home or at work. There are several possible leaks that can develop:

  • Gas: When the gas line or valve leading to/from your HVAC unit gets corroded, it can spring a leak. Gas leaks typically emit a "rotten egg" odor due to a chemical added for the purposes of leak detection. This is an issue that should be repaired by a HVAC professional.

  • Carbon monoxide: Carbon monoxide is odorless, colorless, and deadly. This makes installing a carbon monoxide detector at work a must for employee safety. But even then, you will be relying on the detector to work properly, which doesn’t always happen. Carbon monoxide leaks can best be prevented by scheduling regular HVAC inspection maintenance for the furnace component.

  • Refrigerant: Leaking refrigerant is one of the most common issues when an HVAC system is not properly maintained. Refrigerant is responsible for keeping the air at the proper temperature, but it is toxic to people and the environment in its original liquid state. This type of repair must be done by a HVAC professional.

  • Water: With water leaks, the biggest danger is the development of mould, mildew and fungi. When your HVAC system's drain line gets backed up because of excess water, debris, algae and other contaminants, it can overflow the drill pan and leak out into the surrounding areas. Over time, accumulated condensation, damp spots and puddles can damage the underlying structure of your building and lead to "sick building syndrome."

HVAC filters

It is so easy to forget all about the all-important HVAC filter. However, you do so at your own risk, since a clogged air filter can be a quick firestarter.

As well, clogged filters can cause your HVAC system to have to work harder than it should, increasing your monthly energy costs and your company's carbon footprint.

In time, the extra drain on your HVAC unit can also lead to more expensive maintenance and repairs as parts wear out before they should.

Design of the Ventilation System

Your ventilation system can keep your indoor air clean and fresh or contribute to a rising level of toxins that can make you, your employees and, in time, your whole building sick.

With a well-designed ventilation system in place, you will never lack for fresh, clean indoor air.

Exhaust Rate Monitoring

Being able to detect the presence of harmful gases in your HVAC unit's exhaust system is a key component of any workplace fire safety program.

Strategic placement of exhaust fans and vents, smoke detectors and sprinkler systems, gas and vapour detectors, and having appropriate ventilation/smoke removal zoning can greatly reduce your risk of a workplace fire.

Air Quality Monitoring

Monitoring the quality of your indoor air can serve as a type of early warning system to alert you to a malfunctioning or leaking HVAC system. By keeping the air clean and pure for your employees, you can also prevent costly workers’ compensation payouts.

The most common toxins and pollutants found in commercial indoor air include dust, dust mites, pollen, gas vapours, harsh chemical cleaning odors, chemical "fragrances" and air fresheners/odor eliminators, tobacco smoke, perfumes, ozone from office appliances, and, of course, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide.

The Importance of Regular HVAC Inspection and Maintenance

The number one reason to schedule regular commercial HVAC inspections and maintenance service is quite simply this: peace of mind.

When you can go to work each day knowing that you and your employees are enjoying a temperature-controlled environment that is also safe, you are better able to do your best work.

As well, being able to show a clean bill of HVAC health with updated inspection and maintenance reports may positively impact your liability insurance rates as well as your monthly utility bills.

Keeping a close eye on the operation of your HVAC system also ensures you are doing your part to prevent toxic leaks from contaminating your indoor and surrounding outdoor air, soil and water.

Contact Shipton’s Today

Shipton’s has served our commercial and residential HVAC customers in the Hamilton and surrounding areas for nearly a century! To schedule your HVAC inspection and maintenance, call us at 905-549-4616 or contact us online.

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