Installing new systems atop tall buildings and enhancing ones in historically significant structures, Hunter-Davisson is a successful HVAC company in Portland. The heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration industry’s landscape is ever-evolving and presents unique challenges for safety and compliance. Hunter-Davisson, the first mechanical contractor in Oregon to achieve OSHA’s highest standard for safety, is successfully adapting to maintain safety leadership.
Improving HVAC Goals
Improving energy usage and lowering the environmental footprint are just a few goals in modern HVAC. As processes and equipment change, so do the needs for workplace safety and efficiency. With 37 fatal injuries and 6,830 nonfatal injuries in 2016, HVACR technicians have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2016, National HVAC Technician Day began and this year is on June 22 as a way to show appreciation for the dedication and safety of HVAC technicians.
As a core value, safety is part of Hunter-Davisson’s workplace culture. The company prides itself on being the first mechanical contractor in Oregon to achieve OSHA’s highest standard for safety through the Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP).
“Maintaining a safe work environment while simultaneously striving for a high productivity output can at times appear to be at odds with one another,” said Tara Wells, Hunter-Davisson’s Engineering Manager. “Safety hazards are constantly shifting from season to season, project to project, or simply with the phase of the project (demo, rough-in, start-up, etc.). The most obvious dangers such as crane lifts are easier to plan for although the risk of complacency on the more routine tasks can be just as high a risk. Many times, a person can become focused more on achieving the immediate objective in front of them and put themselves or others at risk. Proactively and continually communicating awareness is necessary.”
There have been introductions of new equipment technologies like Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) systems, chilled beam, and displacement ventilation, as well as new refrigerants like R-410A to replace R-22. These systems are safer for the environment because the refrigerant itself is safer, and manufacturers can program their equipment to shut down upon loss of charge, which can help to prevent refrigerant leaks.
“We are determined to continue to be an industry leader in setting the standard for working safely,” Wells said. “Our safety program relies on multiple layers of responsibility.”
Achievements in Safety
At Hunter-Davisson, the safety manager meets with the safety committee monthly. New employees go through a safety orientation program and company-wide toolbox talks are weekly. Continuous training is performed for specific safety certifications for fall protection, aerial lift operation, rigging, lockout tag out, asbestos awareness, CPR/first aid, forklift operation. Job site-specific toolbox talks are reviewed by the foreman and shared with the crew. Job Hazard Analysis sheets are used for recording and discussing potential safety hazards about work tasks. Accident investigation protocols are in place for each department manager to follow. All accident investigations and safety violations are reviewed by ownership and the safety manager.
“The biggest accomplishment for our team is how we continue to work together in the pursuit of taking care of our customers,” Wells said.
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