A+ Certification/Exam Objectives/Life as a Tech/Safety and Protection/Personal
Well, you've made it this far through the first few navigational sections about safety, and found your way to Personal safety. As previously covered, it is important to learn how to protect yourself when working as a tech, or you will not be a tech for very long. Lasting injuries or death can result from electrical shock, heat, fire, and chemicals. Mostly, from experience in the field, you will need to know how to pick things up without injuring your back. You may also spend a lot of time working inside of computers and/or printers, and will need to know how to prevent shock and heat injuries. You will also need to keep your work area neat, and properly organize your area so that you do not trip on things and can find them when you need them. Lastly, you may come into contact with some chemicals that can injure you if not used properly, so you will need to know how to handle and dispose of them.
As a computer or printer repair technician, it is important to know how to protect yourself from electric shock. When working in a PC be sure to unplug it for at least 30 seconds before working on it. When working in a printer, allow 30 minutes. This allows residual power in the PC to dissipate. Also, before you start working inside a piece of equipment, remove jewelry from your hands, arms, and neck. You do not want to accidentally catch your jewelry on something, and the metal is conductive.
When working in a PC, there is something called flea power. This is the leftover power in the capacitors of the power supply and motherboard that can remain for up to 30 seconds. Newer Dell PCs have a flea power indicator LED on the motherboard that will indicate that there is still residual power. You can quickly clear this power, once the PC is unplugged, by holding down the power button. For the exam, know that you should allow 30 seconds after unplugging a PC for the power to dissipate.
When working on a printer, allow 30 minutes. Laser printers carry a much larger charge in order to run the imaging laser, motors, and fusing array. Grounding yourself while working on a laser printer can result in electric shock. Additionally, a laser printer and some thermal printers have hot surfaces that can take much longer to cool down. The fusing assembly of a laserjet printer will reach 140o Fahrenheit, and can cause burns if not handled properly.
In the field, you will have to move items from one place to another. Lifting incorrectly can cause an injury that will, at the very least, incapacitate you for several weeks. In more serious cases, you could cause serious damage to your back and people around you. You will experience times where you are very busy, and many items need to be moved at once. This is where it is important to have practiced proper lift procedures, as the combination of repetitive stress, the high work load, and improper technique will cause an injury.
PCs can seem deceptively light, and you may be tempted to move a stack of them at once. You might need to unbox dozens of PCs, and be moving back and forth between the boxes and where you store the PCS. I have pulled a muscle doing the latter, and was quite uncomfortable for some time. The PCs were light enough individually that they could be carried one under each arm, but the repetitive movement caused a strain that lingered for months. You do not fully realize how much you use your back until you have injured it.
When you lift equipment, lift with your knees, not your back. Squat to reach items on the ground, hug the load to your chest and stomach, and use your legs to lift the equipment. Use your stomach muscles, as well as your back, to keep yourself upright. When moving the equipment, do not twist at the waist. Use your feet to turn your whole body. Do not attempt to lift more than 50 pounds of equipment (approximately 20 kilos) by yourself.
For larger loads, be sure to have assistance moving the item. Work as a team, and lift the item together at the same time. Face the item, and do not attempt to twist around while carrying it. If the item is bulky or unwieldy, use a cart or handtruck of some kind in order to move it.
Working with electronics, it is important to know how to prevent and control a fire.
To prevent fire, be sure not to overload power outlets. Be sure that proper extension cords are used that are rated to handle the capacity of the equipment they are servicing. An improperly-rated cable can melt or cause a fire when overloaded.
Fire safety is more than just preventing a fire. You are required to know the different types of fire extinguishers, and have a base understanding of how to use them. Wikipedia has a great article on fire extinguishers, but the focus of this section of the article is on the types of extinguishers.
Class A fire extinguishers are for ordinary solid combustibles, such as wood and paper. You can use A for ash as a mnemonic to remember this.
Class B fire extinguishers are for explosive gases and liquids, such as gasoline and propane. You can use B for barrel as a mnemonic to remember this.
Class C fire extinguishers are for electrical fires. You can use C for current as a mnemonic to remember this.
Class D fire extinguishers are for metal fires, such as lithium or magnesium. You can use D for dynamite as a mnemonic to remember this.
Class K fire extinguishers are for oil and fat fires, such as a kitchen fire. You can use K for kitchen as a mnemonic to remember this.
CRT Disposal, and Cautions
CRT (cathode ray tube) monitors have mostly been eliminated from the corporate environment in favor of flat-panel displays that consume less power and take up less desk-space. These monitors need to be disposed of by a recycling center for the following reasons:
- Electrical discharge
- CRT monitors can carry a lethal high-voltage charge for months and years after they were last connected to power. Specialized knowledge and tools not covered in the A+ certification exam are required to release that charge for safe disposal
- Lead glass
- The heavy display is a large vacuum tube made of lead glass. This glass will implode when broken, and has been known to cut through heavy leather gloves. The glass is toxic, and must be disposed of properly
- Toxins in the circuit board
- The circuit board must also be disposed of properly, in order to prevent toxins from entering the landfill.
Cable Management and a Clean Environment
Cable management is well-covered by Wikipedia. The purpose of cable management is to make sure that the airflow inside of a computer case is not obstructed, leading to overheating, and that cables in your work area are neatly organized so that you can find where they go.
As a matter of experience, use cloth hook and loop cable ties. These ties are reusable, and easy to unfasten when you need to relocate a cable.
As a tech, you will occasionally use different chemicals and solvents to accomplish your tasks. I've used different types of antistatic cleaners, goo removers, roller cleaners, and lubricants for things such as cleaning a PC case, removing stickers, and repairing printers. These chemicals can cause skin irritation, may require proper ventilation, and sometimes cannot be mixed. Whenever you will be using a chemical, be sure to have a Material Safety Data Sheet to refer to so that you know how to protect yourself. Per Wikipedia, a MSDS "is intended to provide workers and emergency personnel with procedures for handling or working with that substance in a safe manner, and includes information such as physical data (melting point, boiling point, flash point, etc.), toxicity, health effects, first aid, reactivity, storage, disposal, protective equipment, and spill-handling procedures."
You will want to refer to the MSDS prior to using a chemical to know how to handle it safely, first aid for the chemical, how to store and transport it, the effects on individuals and the environment, and how to dispose of it.
For a deeper understanding of the fact sheet, please visit Wikipedia. Not only is there a wealth of information in the article, there are many links below to better educate yourself.
Dust, Debris, and Airborne Particles
Most of the time, you would use compressed air to clean out a PC case. Best practices would be to do this in a well-ventilated area where you do not mind getting dust all over. You also want to refrain from blowing the dust out of a printer with compressed air.
When blowing out a PC, be sure to shut it down properly and disconnect it from power. You will open the side of the PC, and will be trying to remove dust from many small crevices.
For occasional use, you can purchase canned compressed air just for this purpose. When using canned compressed air, be careful to keep the can upright so that the propellant is not accidentally discharged. A running PC can be damaged by the cold, and the propellant may be conductive. It does dissipate quickly, so there is very little clean-up, but propellant is also an inhalant risk. Lastly, the cold propellant can cause skin irritation and frostbite.
If you find yourself using lots of canned air, an air compressor is a great addition to any tech room. Be aware that air compressors can occasionally retain moisture from compressing air, so you will want to release the air from the valve directly on the tank from time to time. You do not want to blow a watery mist all over a dusty PC. Not only will this make it more difficult to remove the dust, but water and electronics do not mix. Luckily, a brief spray to a PC you have already unplugged will be more of an inconvenience that you will need to let dry, but it is best to check a compressor by pulling the release valve than having to deal with the problems caused by negligence.
You can use a specialized ESD vacuum to remove dust from electronics components. A standard vacuum builds up static electricity and will cause components to fail. Never use a standard vacuum to remove toner particles from a laser printer, as the ESD can cause the particles to combust. Do not use a standard ESD vacuum, as the toner particles are too fine and will destroy the ESD vacuum. You can purchase a toner vacuum, which is best suited to toner spills. Removing toner and paper dust from a printer is best done with a dry cloth.
Illness and Disease
While not covered by Comptia, you will want to protect yourself as a tech from illness and disease. It is much more difficult to deal with these problems when you need to cover an office building, move equipment, complete inventory, and other physical activities. Besides using personal hygiene, you will also want to make sure that you wash your hands after and between visiting desks to prevent spreading disease. Blowing out an old computer case will aerosolize the dust that has collected, mainly comprised of old hair, pet dander, skin flakes, and anything airborne that has become lodged in the case. Moving a PC in an office environment can leave a coating of dust on your hands that you should keep clear of your face. If you are able to do so, get vaccinated against common diseases so that you do not end up waiting to get better instead of working.