HVAC and Jobsite Injury Prevention

Posted by Carl Nattrass on Wed, Jan 20, 2010

 The jobsite can be a hazardous place. All good employers take jobsite safety seriously, this makes good business sense as the cost of one, lost-time injury can run an employer on average close to $29,000 in direct and indirect costs*. In the HVAC and plumbing industry the majority of lost time injuries are a result of physical strain injuries from moving heavy loads by hand or using a regular hand cart. Boilers, geothermal units, drain and sewer cleaners, AC units, heat pumps, cast iron bathtubs and large furnaces are usually the culprits. Some of these items can weigh over a thousand pounds and many need to be moved up or down stairs. The traditional hand truck is not the ideal moving solution as the operator still needs to ‘lift' the weight over curbs, on or off trucks or in the worst case scenario up or down stairs.

The traditional hand truck is without brakes and requires the operator to keep the load in a balanced position - especially on stairs. This can result in the operator having to make sudden weight shifting movements to control the load and this is often where injuries can occur. The installer may suffer an injury that may go unnoticed until a subsequent unrelated activity causes the damage to become apparent. This can be particularly unfortunate if the trigger event takes place outside of the work environment and the damage is not classified as a work related injury.

The answer, of course is to not get injured in the first place. One way installers in the HVAC and plumbing industry can avoid injury is to source alternate means of moving heavy loads. There are several moving solutions available, the best of which are called ‘stair climbers' or ‘motorized stair climbers' which do the heavy lifting for you. The PowerMate® brand of stair climber has several advantages over other systems. PowerMate® manufactures and sells direct and has an excellent reputation for quality. PowerMate® also has the best service and training program in the industry and understands the complex needs of independent operators, SME's and large businesses alike. For example, PowerMate® offers certified training programs designed to "train the trainers" which works well for large operators with fleet vehicles and multiple stair climbers (PowerMates).

Another advantage of using a powered hand truck is the greater range in terms of who can be an installer. Physical strength is much less of a factor; older workers and women are more likely to be able to install hot water tanks or geothermal units unaided. Injured workers can return to work faster using a powered lifting device as well. Your insurance premiums may drop as a result of implementing this very significant piece of PPE (personal protective equipment). One large home comfort HVAC company has mandated the use of PowerMates in all installations as part of their safety policy.

You can find more information on the PowerMate® brand of motorized stair climbing hand trucks at http://www.powermate.info/

*U.S. Department of Labor Statistics quotes a figure of $29,000 as the total costs to en employer from ONE lost-time injury; 2004. 

Tags: Injury prevention, HVAC-R, safety moving systems, powered hand trucks, motorized stair climbers