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HVAC Safety Tips & Checklist | How SWMS Automation Can Help You

October 2, 2020
Paul Tyrrell
Safety

Being safe on the job

How SWMS Automation Can Help You

What is a SWMS document? How can automation help your HVAC business run Safety protocols better?

Safety is vital for any business and especially for those where the risk of harm is greater by the nature of the work they do; ie handling electricity, high pressure, working at heights etc.  With the assistance of automation you can not only ensure your team is safe but save valuable time in administration and follow up as well as manage compliance (document retention).

 

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As you may know, a SWMS (Safe Work Method Statement) must be prepared before you begin any high risk construction work. Often the Site/Project manager will not let a contractor on to the site without a signed SWMS.  A SWMS will set out the risks and go through procedures to avoid harm coming to you or others around the work team.

SWMS

SWMS

A SWMS has basic information like date, address of site and signatures of those involved to ensure compliance with correct procedures. While a SWMS document can help avoid hazards, sometimes filling out lengthy paperwork and chasing up signatures can be more painful than falling off a cherry-picker because you didn’t wear a safety harness. When you choose to automate your SWMS job workflow you can dynamically build the profile whilst at the site.

A SWMS document has a number of sections that are the core managing safety.  Many SWMS documents are mandated in legislation and are highly technical documents and there are often variations specific to each project/site that can make them very cumbersome to maintain.

A control

A control system is used to manage the risk. There can be various ways to control the risk, as seen in the table below each control contributes to reduce the hazard to minimise or eliminate risk.

Hierarchy of Control

 

A Risk Matrix

A Risk Matrix will present a risk rating with a reference to the Risk Consequence and Risk Likelihood. These activities cover but are not limited to:

  • Access to ceiling space via ladder
  • Access to ceiling space via lifting equipment
  • Installing new ceiling mounted units
  • Running cables through existing ceiling space
  • Run pipework through existing ceiling space
  • Cutting copper pipe with tube cutter
  • Welding copper tube
  • Cut plasterboard using a keyhole plasterboard saw
  • Install ceiling registers
  • Install flexi-duct work and zone motors in ceilings space
  • Connect new calves into electrical plant/ equipment
  • Refrigerant charge the system using a vacuum pump
  • Connect pressure pump
  • Test the electrical installation
  • Fill out and issue electrical certificate of compliance
  • Cleaning up work area
  • Vacuum

 

Risk Matrix

Risk Matrix

All of this can lead to extensive paperwork to ensure the safety of everyone on site. A technician can have a very rewarding job but when there is so much yellow tape around a construction site and so many hazards hiding in every corner, it can make life difficult. 

 

Some of the challenges associated with paper based SWMS

  1. It can be annoying to have to keep track of a paper based SWMS register by site, project, technician etc
  2. SWMS paper registers can get lost
  3. SWMS can get damaged, ripped or smudged
  4. It’s hard to annotate and read the writing on a document that has been around the tracks
  5. It can be hard to edit and update an activity on a big SWMS document when new hazards arise or the situation changes frequently

 

Considering all of the difficulties, imagine how much easier life could be if you could:

  1. Grab any of your SWMS templates in the field when you want them
  2. Able to add protocols, steps and activities in a few minutes without having to grab a new form
  3. Able to capture your team's signatures on the job and have that on your SWMS PDF to email to a customer or auditor immediately
  4. Have your SWMS on hand and have access to your documents without the hassle of calling the office. 

Being able to access multiple SWMS templates or to edit SWMS on site are just some of the automation benefits that cut unnecessary admin and improve compliance. These are key features to FieldInsight’s automated software to increase productivity, safety and efficiency within your HVAC business. 

How does SWMS and checklists Improve your team’s safety?

Safety 

On any high risk construction site, PPE is an important safety measure for individuals. PPE safety measures can include:

  • Dust Mask
  • Eye and Hearing Protection
  • Eye Protection
  • Fall Protection
  • Fire Extinguisher
  • Gloves
  • Hard Hats
  • Hearing Protection
  • Hi Visibility Vests or Clothing
  • Protective Clothing
  • Safety Boots
  • Sturdy footwear with rubber soles must be worn
  • Sunscreen must be worn

One of the biggest challenges on a HVAC site is paperwork compilation and the admin that goes with it. With a high rate of HVAC businesses using paper based systems, there can be a lot admin work for you and the office. When a HVAC business incorporates an automated software, more time can be spent on safety activity than time-consuming admin work. This shift from admin to safety can focus your time on assessing hazards and adding appropriate measures with very minimal office effort. 

 

Regulatory compliance 

A challenge that accompanies high risk work environments is opening yourself up to being sued. A common problem is technicians simply forget to complete their safety documentation. It can be as easy as getting a phone call or talking to a customer and getting distracted and forgetting to complete the paperwork. 

A checklist can be a vital tool when you consider all that can go wrong on site. By having a checklist you can ensure your technicians won’t miss any steps or protocols. With an automated system, you can enforce SWMS compliance and see when your technicians have completed their checklist.  Having an automated system that supports safety documentation goes a long way to showing that you are committed to safety.

Don’t wait until an auditor comes to site and finds mistakes on your SWMS documentation (hopefully the visit by worksafe isnt because of a reported accident).  By having a workflow oriented checklist in place you can make safety easier for all your team. 

 

Streamline safety systems 

A big deterrent in safety documentation, SWMS and JSA can be the complexity and time consuming nature of paperwork. The key to managing paperwork is having a flexible system where you can build SWMS documents into editable templates that your technicians can modify as they need in the field.  No two workplaces are the same and you need the flexibility to modify whilst on site and not run back to the office to complete a new document (and hopefully not forget anything).

With FieldInsight, you can manage versions and your technicians can access templates and checklists without calling the office. With increased efficiency you can dramatically improve the ease of compliance and reduce admin effort.  Your team can also get on to completing the job and save you paying them to sit around and wait for a document to be finalised.

Having this at a glance you can see the jobs that have been done for the day and check all SWMS have been signed. This level of visibility means increased efficiency for the whole HVAC team.

 

People make mistakes

No one intentionally enjoys risking their life or limb, but people make mistakes. Having extra guidelines by incorporating a checklist can reduce human error and have a profound impact on safety outcomes. 

When a technician has been working since sun-up and they are tired or distracted at the wrong time, it can be easy to make a mistake. Remember that safety awareness goes up significantly with checklists. Not only can you lose customers over simple mistakes on site but it can also open you up for legal risks.  For the same reason that a surgeon or a pilot will use a checklist, your technicians need to be considering the safety of themselves and those around them. Don’t let simple errors be the failing of your business. 

 

How can FieldInsight help improve safety in your HVAC business? 

With the amount of hazards present on site, you can’t risk your team's safety. Something as little as forgetting to switch off the power can cause an avoidable mistake and possible harm. 

What’s grey, frayed and hanging from the ceiling? A technician who didn’t complete his SWMS to include this before checking the wires on an air conditioning unit could be catastrophic. 

 

Ensure your team is practising safe work measures and increase productivity by incorporating a Job Management Software into your HVAC business. 

 

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    FieldInsight by 2020 will have helped Mechanical Services businesses save 1,000,000 hours of lost Productivity.
    To do this we make it easy and fast for technicians to capture the information needed, ensure they are working safely, capture job costs and can quote and invoice quickly.
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