HVAC Technician Death Stresses Need for Caution With Electricity

Aug. 10, 2015
Letter appears on LinkedIn as a warning to all who work with HVAC equipment.  

A sad letter appeared on LinkedIn recently, one that emphasizes the need for extreme caution when servicing HVAC equipment. Michael Warren, an instructor at Southeastern Technical College, Vidalia, Ga. wrote the letter to popular HVAC educator/business owner/author, Carter Stanfield.

"I am writing you this with the hope that you will pass this on to everyone. Last week, I lost a great student and a friend. He was a student that every Instructor dreams of. He was smart and eager to work hard and make a career in our field of HVACR. He was only 22 years old with a wife and an 8-month-old little girl. His death has really hit me hard as his instructor. He worked for an A/C company nearby.

"While working on a heat pump service call, he had been in the attic and outside to check the equipment, then he headed under the house to change the air filter for the customer. Upon touching the air handler cabinet he became locked and grounded by a wire that was shorted to the air handler’s metal cabinet. He was wet from sweat, from being in the attic as well as outside in our hot humid air. He was LOCKED to the air handler after some 15 minutes the home owner called him. When he did not answer, the owner went under and found him and was able to knock him off the unit and freed him. The owner then dragged him out and started CPR. EMS arrived and continued CPR on the way to the Medical Center, where medical staff also continued CPR, but a doctor pronounced him dead.

"I believe every class needs to tell every student and warn them of this. He was just changing an air filter, not working on the electric wiring. I know he never would have thought of being shocked by just touching the cabinet. We have all done this thousands of times, not thinking about getting shocked. TURN OFF ALL POWER before doing anything on any unit.”

"How many times have you touched a unit before checking to see if the case was energized? I cannot count how many times I have done this. THIS TECH WAS JUST CHANGING A FILTER. Before touching any electrical disconnect or unit, ALWAYS check with a non-contact voltage detector to make sure the cabinet is not energized. And when you work on a unit for any reason, check to make sure that it is properly grounded before you leave. It is rare for a unit cabinet to be energized – but it does happen and the results can be tragic."