Health and Safety Considerations When Installing Insulation

Insulation enhances the performance of roofing and HVAC systems, prevents moisture condensation and lowers energy costs.

Insulation enhances the performance of roofing and HVAC systems, prevents moisture condensation and lowers energy costs. It also reduces noise levels and the emission of pollutants. When you’re ready to upgrade the insulation in a building, it’s important to do so with safety in mind. Here are some tips on staying safe when installing commercial insulation.

Types and Materials of Insulation

There are several types and materials available for insulation. Materials used for insulation include fiberglass, mineral wool, shredded paper, polyurethane, polystyrene, polyisocyanurate, polyethylene, cellulose and straw. The types of insulation include liquid sprays that solidify and expand after curing, loose fill, rolls or batts, rigid foam boards or blocks, fibrous, structured fibrous panels and blown-in. The techniques used to install insulation depend on the material and type. The necessary safety precautions also vary by the material and type of installation that needs to be installed.

Regulations for Installation of Insulation

Regulations around the installation of insulation vary by state. The minimum amount of insulation required for a residential or commercial building is regulated in each state’s building codes. For example, Oregon updated its building code as of January 1, 2018, requiring R-values for walls to be at least R-21. In 2019, North Carolina updated its Energy Rating Index requirements for below-grade walls, roofs and flooring. In Ohio, the Ohio Revised Code requires written and depicted building envelope maps showing the R-value of insulation throughout the building.

Safety Codes for Installing Insulation

Safety codes for installing insulation also vary by state. The federal government also has some standards and safety codes in place for people who install insulation. Those safety codes are provided by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Eye and respiratory protection are necessary for anyone installing fiberglass insulation per OSHA safety standards. OSHA also states that dust respirators should be used for the installation of cellulose insulation. Fire protection and suppression equipment must be at hand when workers install sprayed foam and other types of combustible insulation.

Safety Materials for Installing Insulation

When installing insulation that creates airborne fibers, it is necessary to wear an N95 respirator mask. These masks should be worn when installing fiberglass insulation. A dust mask may be sufficient for the installation of cellulose insulation. Safety glasses or goggles are also critical safety materials for installing insulation. They stop fibers or particles from getting into the eyes. When installing any type of insulation, a worker should wear long, thick leather or rubber gloves, a shirt with long sleeves, a hat or other head covering, long pants tucked into socks and close-toed work shoes. When installing combustible insulation, keep a fire extinguisher handy. Proper ventilation with exhaust fans or open windows is needed when installing spray foam insulation. The ventilation removes the volatile organic compounds from the work area.

How to Stay Safe When Installing Insulation

During an insulation installation project, never work alone. Working in pairs facilitates safety. If one worker starts to become overwhelmed by off-gassing fumes, heat or tiredness, the other person can get them to safety and call for assistance. Working in pairs also helps avoid injury in the event of a fire. Rolls of fiberglass insulation and blowers used for loose fill and blown-in insulation are heavy, and two people working together can more easily maneuver the supplies and equipment. Remember to take frequent breaks and avoid touching the eyes, nose and mouth when installing insulation.

Insulation reduces utility bills, adds comfort for the structure’s occupants and helps extend the lifespan of a roofing system. With these simple safety tips, you can stay safe when installing new commercial insulation in any type or size of building.

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