More than four years after the Perth truck blast that injured two tradesmen, the Western Australia Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety has published a bulletin outlining safety considerations when “switching to” flammable refrigerants.
Contributing to the publication of Dangerous Goods Safety Bulletin No. 0218 and Worksafe was the Motor Trades Association of Western Australia (MTA WA), which has been campaigning to increase awareness of the risks associated with handling, storing and installing flammable refrigerants.
“The Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety has become concerned following incidents involving flammable refrigerants. These have resulted in injury and damage to property within Western Australia and a fatality in New Zealand,” says the bulletin.
“Replacing non-flammable refrigerants with flammable ones without appropriate system assessments and modifications in industrial, commercial, domestic and automotive applications present a fire risk.
“The flammability hazard of these refrigerants is not properly communicated to emergency services and workers through correct placarding and labelling which can lead to improper emergency response and unsafe work practices.”
Although the bulletin is light on information about enforcement, it highlights the insurance implications of flammable refrigerant retrofits.
“Businesses and consumers need to be aware that while alternative refrigerants, such as flammable refrigerants, can be used in existing refrigeration systems, most of these systems were not originally designed for flammable refrigerants and will require appropriate system assessments and modifications to operate safely,” it says.
“Use of flammable refrigerants in equipment for which it is not designed for (e.g. vehicles, domestic air conditioners, etc.), may invalidate business, car and home/contents insurance policies.”
The bulletin goes on to advise those who have, or intend to conduct flammable retrofits “should disclose the change to your insurance company and seek written confirmation that the insurance policies still cover you.”
Much of the remaining information in the bulletin should be common sense, although it does say: “Some individuals and businesses are unaware of the safety implications of replacing non-flammable refrigerants with flammable ones or the requirements to control the risks posed.”
Download the WA safety bulletin at: tinyurl.com/WA218