HVAC Fire Safety - I’m not sure how many HVAC technicians have heard of on the job horror stories. Whether the job was commercial or residential. However, I am certain they have happened as I have heard of these horror stories happening to others.
Whether you have ever heard of it happening to others or even if it has happened to you it is important that we remain forever vigilant. This is absolutely true when it comes to fire safety on the job. Especially when we are constantly using fire as a part of our job. And especially for silver soldering (brazing), soft soldering, or even when we are working on gas or oil boilers or furnaces. Here is an account of a few things that I’ve personally experienced and the lessons learned from these occurrences.
Boiler Fire Safety – HVAC Fire Safety
I had stopped by a commercial building where a co-worker was performing boiler maintenance. It was a light commercial sized gas hot water boiler (about 500,000 BTU’s) and the technician thought he secured the gas and the power. I was only there to pick up a part I needed which this HVAC technician had on his truck. I went to the boiler room and found the co-worker. The burners were pulled out and the co-worker’s apprentice was cleaning the burners and checking the manifold. The co-worker and I were nearly ready to leave to go to his truck and get the part. That is when the HVAC apprentice yelled out that the boiler was trying to fire. Sure enough, the boiler was trying to fire and actually did fire. The boiler had no burners as these were lying on the floor getting cleaned. I ran down the stairs and quickly secured the gas to the boiler.
The Boiler Fire – HVAC Fire Safety
The entire manifold was spewing fire out at the spud orifice’s. The fire was not going under the boiler as it usually would if the burners were installed. The fire was directed to the cast iron where the water was heated. No damage occurred except some black residue left on the front of the boiler. I had a talk with the HVAC technician about this and he said he thought the HVAC apprentice secured the gas and power to the boiler. Something that should have been double checked before the burners were removed for cleaning. Apparently, the apprentice had not turned the boiler power or boiler gas supply off before pulling the burners.
One can hardly blame the apprentice as the technician is always responsible for the actions of his apprentice in most cases. However, it is the responsibility of the technician to properly and safely direct any work of the apprentice. It is his ultimate responsibility especially whenever safety is concerned. A little discussion with the HVAC technician and the HVAC apprentice and I found that both were regretful and definitely learned their lessons. I constantly wonder what would have happened if either myself or the HVAC technician were not in the room. What if the HVAC apprentice did not know what to do? It could have been a serious disaster ending with the fire department. Additionally, my company could have lost a good maintenance account.
Soldering and HVAC Fire Safety
Another occurrence happened to me whenever I was changing out a small condenser on a Saturday for some overtime work. I was in an area where there were a lot of pine needles. I had removed an old condenser. Then I a broom. which I always carried on my truck for cleaning up after a job is finished, and I swept the pine needles away from the area where I was going to be brazing. The wind was blowing and had blown some pine needles around the area where I was soldering. It was not much and didn’t think it would be a problem. Sure enough a few of the pine needles caught fire and blew into a bigger pile of pine needles. It didn’t take long for a blaze to ignite from my soldering.
Being Prepared and Paying Attention – HVAC Fire Safety
Thankfully I did not have tunnel vision and I was paying attention my surroundings and noticed the smoke. I ran to the truck and got my fire extinguisher and began putting out the fire. However, the wind was blowing pretty good and the fire quickly spread. My fire extinguisher was exhausted so I started looking around and found a water hose. With the fire completely extinguished I took a little more time this time to completely remove all combustion materials that could catch on fire away from the area where I would be soldering. Lesson learned - don’t take any chances. It was a Saturday and I wanted to go home to spend a Saturday afternoon with family. I had changed out a thousand condensers and was probably over confident.
HVAC Fire Safety and Lessons Learned – HVAC Fire Safety
I am sure there are a thousand stories that High Performance HVAC visitors can share with other readers. These stories concern things that have happened to them and lessons learned from those occurrences. It is important to stay forever vigilant even if we are not going to be on the job. I heard about an HVAC technician who was working on an air handler or something and decided to take a lunch. He left the home with his extension light on. The light heated up and caught something on fire and burned down half the house. He learned the hard way to turn off his extension light when leaving the job. A hard way to learn is never preferred so remain vigilant about safety! This way you will not have to experience any lessons the hard way especially with HVAC fire safety.
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HVAC Fire Safety
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