View Full Version : Accidents in Refrigeration and AC world.

15-02-2004, 08:09 AM

We are all constantly confronted with the problems of Global Warming and Ozone Depletion.

Most of the fluids we use in the Trade are now either Ozone or Global Warming fluids. We have to try according to the IPCC
( the academics) to stop using Fluids with High ODP and High
GWP. So we have to change.

If we do ,we are coming into toxic and flammable area's, every body talks about explosions, asphexciation etc etc and stinking.

On the other hand approx 50 % of our refrigeration capacity worldwide is done by Ammonia, and the world largest refrigeration plants eg Australia's LNG (liquid Natural Gas Plants) work with propane as the refrigeart ( part of the LNG fluid).

EG.In Australia in one LNG plant 6x 6000Hp ( jet engines {747 engines] are used for the purpose. (they are called TRAINS and we have now the last (out of 5 installed). And remember all are aircooled.

May be we can together collect some information about the Safety aspects of fluids and also in the industry in total. It would be a great help for every body.

Anybody !!!!!


16-02-2004, 04:28 AM
The problem is FUD (fear uncertainty doubt). As you point out, there are huge plants using A3 and B2 refrigerants successfully. I visited a large plant in suburban Perth where their system uses 60 tonnes of ammonia. A repairman cut the wrong pipe and sent a cloud of ammonia towards the local hardware warehouse without causing too much alarm.

I find it amusing that people worry and protest about wireless telephone towers when they live next door to 60 tonnes of very nasty gas.

The use of hydrocarbons as R12 replacements in cars is a good demonstration of FUD. Opponents of HC staged vehicle explosions and managed to get its use banned in some states in Australia.

Americans are paranoid about HC while Europeans take a sensible approach. The only sane thing that I have read from an American on this subject was from a Du Pont executive who said that HCs were safe enough but there were hundreds of thousands of HVAC people who had been taught that refrigerants were not flammable and it was too hard to retrain them.

Unfortunately we live in a society that cannot handle the statistics needed to understand risk. People worry about shark attacks but not about being hit by lightning, while the odds of death by lightning is far higher.

In Australia, we have new federal fluorocarbon laws and there is a debate as to whether the regulations should cover HC. The feds don't want to know about it, but my state is warning that unless HCs are treated with the same regulations as HFCs, you will get some potentially dangerous anomolies arising.

We live in interesting times.

19-02-2004, 07:17 PM

For those of you who have knowledge of accidents in the
refrigeration and/or airconditioning industry, we would like to hear from you on this website. Please be specific and tracable if you mention an accident. Accident definition is a bit odd but basically

If you have to stay away from work for duration of more than 1 day due to your work we would classify that as an accident.

Anybody ???

Accidents with refrigerants may have our special attention.

Those who use Halocarbons will accuse those of using Naturals
as working with Toxic, Flammable and stinking fluids, while those using Naturals accuse the other party of Polluting atmosphere
with Ozone and Global Warming problems.

Main reason for non-infiltration in the smaller equipment field is
the Risks associated with "naturals". But is there a real Risk or is it mainly exaggerated by specific area's in our Industry.



19-02-2004, 08:38 PM

we had a young lad recently have an accident with a bottle of R410a. The bottle was on the scales inverted ready for charging the system just waiting for the system to come off vacuum.

Anyway, the lad (supposedly with a safe handling certificate but no experience) did the change over and commenced to charge the system - without supervision - and as he could not see any flow of refrigerant in the charging station he attempted to loosen the gauge line on the cylinder. Fatal mistake as the new high pressure refrigerant gauges have top notch seals and before he knew it he had a major spillage and severe burns on his forearm and hand!

Off work for 3 weeks before he was able to make any useful employment of his hand :eek:

19-02-2004, 09:20 PM
I caused a self inflicted wound due to my fiddling about when I should have been using my brain a bit more.

Stood in a plantroom waiting for a system to come under vacuum I was idly playing with an old filter/drier that had the plastic thread protectors still fitted. Unscrewing a cap at one end, as you do when a thread is just asking to be touched, the cap was explosively blown off as it reached the last threads.

The residual refrigerant in the core had been kept nice and warm in the plantroom since it was discarded by someone in the past.

The contents of the drier, oil and refrigerant, was blown into and under the sink of my forearm and Oh Boy did that smart !

It made me feel quite unwell for about 30 minutes and took over a week before I got all of the oil from under the skin. High pressure oil injection should stay in two-stroke engines to my mind :(

19-02-2004, 09:24 PM
a famous incident happened to a westward engineer fixing an open freezer in supermarket

he was leaning in the cabinet tightening the tev when he became overcome with the lack of oxygen as the R22 had displaced it, fell in and suffocated right there in front of the shoppers..


19-02-2004, 11:16 PM

If I remember correctly......that poor guy died.....

20-02-2004, 04:56 AM
Years ago Jonathan Miller had a TV show about the body. To close one of the episodes, he put on a breathing mask that was connected to a set of bellows, forcing him to rebreath his own air. Naturally after a few minutes he had to tear the mask off to get some fresh air. He then inserted a canister full of carbon dioxide absorbing chemicals in the tube going to the bellows and tried again. He was repeatedly signing his name while saying how he felt. You could see his signature getting increasingly haphazard while he was saying that he felt fine. He was saying that he was feeling ok when he collapsed. They then rolled the credits and you saw people rush in with oxygen to revive him.

It is easy to forget that our senses will not always save us.

20-02-2004, 06:21 AM

In North Queensland ( Australia) 3 years ago, a technician worked on a halocarbon plant on a fishing vessel and repaired a leak, as it was Friday afternoon and he ran out of nitrogin , he used his oxy bottle instead. The captain and the technician were both loking for leaks and at the same time an enourmous explosion occured.
Oxygen and oil is not compatible and both men died on the spot . The compressor was found jammed from its foundation in the engine room somewhere 10 meters in fronyt of the bow.
Is this a refrigeration accident of a pure stupidity. ??
I just wander.

20-02-2004, 08:22 AM
Pure stupidity, jg/oz. That guy should never have been allowed out on his own - even a rank apprentice should know better!:eek:
Of course, if you want to know about self inflicted accidents, I know Webram has a doozy! :D
From my experience, there's two stories: One, two of our supervisors at my last co. were in an APV screw plantroom with a junior tech. who they instructed to change the oil. This guy did not know that APV oil is under discharge pressure, not suction pressure. Result, both supervisors & the plant room were covered in oil! Thankfully no serious harm was done, but the cleanup took over a week!
The second one was more serious. We'd been on at our bosses for some time regarding the bad state of the fixed ladders in a certain big supermarket chain. Of course, nothing was done until one of the guys fell about 10' onto some gas bottles! (Yes, the gas bottles shouldn't have been there, but niether should the ladder have been loose from the wall! And the bottles did break his fall.) He was VERY lucky not to break anything or bust his neck / skull. He was still off for about a week with bruising & strains. Guess what? Yes, you're right. THAT ladder was fixed, but none of the others we'd pointed out! :mad:
Thankfully I now work for another multinational that takes H&S very seriously.

20-02-2004, 09:25 AM
i remember piping a small split on a flat roof..

turned round and stepped off the roof onto concrete pavement below..

nothing broken but-

fractured collarbone
fractured wrist
fractured elbow
fractured jaw (plus several broken teeth and 15 stitches )
fractured ribs (x3)



22-02-2004, 04:39 AM
richard, its ok...

tell us what really happened, i'm sure there was a nice looking busty blonde walking up that street you caught the eye of right?

22-02-2004, 09:21 AM
Richard, I think the law says that

If theres any equipement within a few metres of the end of a roof... then safety barriers must be installed

I went to a site, nearly 5 metres up.......no barrier, I refused to work, customer has to provide permanently fixed barriers


Article in Service Engineer Mag...........rookie engineer sent to a job........he asked for nitrogen......supervisor gave him oxygen

He started brazing.........Bang! he burnt seriously

Cylinders were not labelled correctly...... It is time we did start to take H &S more seriously

Falling onto concrete is no joke for Richard I bet

22-02-2004, 10:42 AM
no you're right it bloody hurt..and to make matters worse it was the first week of july..didn't get back to work for about 1 month..

but as we were out there doing it -so to speak- these kind of things take second place to getting it done..

bit like the time we had to get a 36k fujitsu condenser 20 foot up on a roof..2 men with rope dragging up the ladder and me underneath pushing up as we went....got real tricky getting it over the parapit

crazy hazy days..

yes i agree with the h&s issue..we do work for royal mail via romec. a guy of theirs fell through a roof skylight and died..since then any roof job is a real H&s issue..understandably so..



22-02-2004, 07:41 PM
another sad story for this strange colection.

some years ago in a machine shop of a small company, a fridgie was replacing a small compressor on a condensing unit,

after brazing the new compressor, he put the torch on the floor.

what he didnt notice, is that the oxygen valve, when touched the floor, opened a bit.
then he put the old compressor on the floor and decided to check it. connected it to the mains to see if it works....... it did, sucking the oxygen from the the torch................BUMM, the compressor exploded and the shell went through the poor guy's head.


06-07-2004, 08:58 AM
Not much happening in the Accident area.

Nobody died of HC fluids ??????????????

Anybody anything to report ........!!!

We are desparate for accidents because we have a new committee in IIR who set up a Working Group to solve these horrific HC problems which we phase when using this horrible
HC refrigerant stuff.

So far approx 110 million HC fridges in Europe have not caused a problem ? ( although approx .75% must have statistically been repaired by a technician or 100.000 have definately been repaired of which approx at least --10.000 compressors being replaced.)

I read that "Unilever Ice" will be purchasing approx 2.000.000
ice cream freesers with "HC" after 2004 ,after their trial period
in Europe and Australia with HCfluids.

See "Unilever" paper at http://www.refrigerantsnaturally.com

have a good day,

anything to report !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


06-07-2004, 11:54 AM
Gosh I can't find the link, but I vaguely recall seeing a video clip of a helicopter crashing into a rooftop of a building along with condensing units it was carrying up there for installation.

06-07-2004, 03:43 PM
crickey yes

i remember seeing that one too..i'll look for it..



08-07-2004, 08:33 AM
Yeah, that was in Cape Town. I forget the details, but the only way to get the unit up was with a chopper. If I remember right, it was too breezy to really be safe, and the chopper got smashed into the building as a result. It surprised me at the time, because every SA chopper jockey I met was damn good, having been taught by the defence force. If I can get hold of my pilot contact, I'll see what the other pilots thought of it.

10-07-2004, 04:17 PM
A few months ago a collegue had to move three a/c units (8 kw hiross) from one room to another (data centres with smoke detection and fire extinguishing massive gas bottles).He proceeded reclaiming the gas from one unit,disconnected the main power and started to disassemble the air ducts on top of this machine.He then asked the apprentice (an idiot who's got the head just to keep his ears apart)to check with the tester if the second unit was energised.This idiot did that but not JUST THAT.........seeing there was no electricity he grabbed a pipe cutter and cut the liquid line thinking the gas was already reclaimed!!!Needless to say a river of fluid gas came out.The smoke sensors worked really well as alarm bells went wild throughout the whole building.As people started evacuating there was an explosion.......yes...the massive fire extinguishing gas bottles(filled with argon i think,at 220 bar)!!My collegue,at this point was outside and couldn't find "the idiot".....he went back inside and found him still holding the liquid line trying to stop the refrigerant!!!!He grabbed him and pulled him outside and for an hour he was (the idiot)even more idiotic (if that's possible)for lack of oxygen.
When he was asked why he did that his response was:
"I just wanted to speed up a bit"
My collegue just looked around and saw about thirty people(the employees of this firm)wondering where the fire was,the bells were still ringing and the idiot started giggling as he found everithing funny he told me he just wanted to leave......he wanted to go home before he smashed the idiot's face!
At the end of this my company had to pay something like four thousand euros for the replacement of the argon bottles but that's nothing compared to the fact that every time we go there even to tighten a screw we are supervised.
The idiot received a letter from the director as everyone in administration and every other department wanted a written explaination on what had happened.The idiot had a lawyer write a letter blaiming my collegue because as a team leader he failed to supervise an apprentice.
Needless to say the idiot now doesn't work with us anymore.
Hope you enjoyed this story and just as a matter of curiosity,how many of you would have stayed cool and if not would you have thrown the idiot back inside with no oxygen?

10-07-2004, 10:31 PM
Hi guys,
The things you get up to when youíre young and foolish, Many a years ago I had removed the refrigerant (R502) from the open top freezer in a small shop out side Caernarfon (N. Wales) then commenced to replace the pulled flare on the expansion vale, having swaged the pipe I climbed in to the said freezer and started to braze my new bit of pipe to the Evap. For some strange reason I then remember a lot of people standing over me! The owner of the shop had walked past to find me asleep in his freezer unable to find a realistic price for me he dragged me outside and thatís where I came around. thanks again to him I think he saved my life.!!!!

11-07-2004, 04:30 AM
Interesting to read your stories and it helps us a lot, most accidents occur due to stupidity but are'nt most accidents.

To set up a good data- base of accidents in our trade we need to be more specific. With specific meaning, when ,where
,what & how it happened and if possible police of oficial reports.

Please so next time have some more details.

An intersting report from the IIR ( International Institute of Refrigeration) which held its last "4 year Symphosium" in Washington DC last year, a paper from a friend of mine.


06-12-2004, 02:00 AM
Dear Friend,

Think a good read --what ODP and GWP means ---would be good for your further education. This is all not as simple as you try to say. CFC molecules end up in the strtosphere and so do HFC mol's. Swimming pool chlorines have nohing to do with ODP's

[QUOTE=nighter1]BLAH BLAH BLAH, is not the sensible approach! although , I agree with you in part, the control of the public is by and through use fear and sympathy, thats why so many of the third world countries will not , join in in the hoopla, the molecule that will consume the ozone layer or damage it and that will change it, can only be proven on the ground at a lab, theres no proof that the molecules can even float , high enough to reach the ozone layer, next swimming

WE are seriously looking for accidents in the refrigeration Industry and this will give us an indication if newer refrigerants are not more of interest to our off-spring than present CFC's, HFC's and newer substances with significient ODP and GWP levels.

Most of you reject ---------New Naturals because of:

1. Not familiar with.!
2. New technology !
3. Not knowing how to use it !
4. Not interested in studying for new technologies !
5. Not interested what your offspring will tell you over time !
6. Unfamilair with flammables in the Industry.
7. Unfamilaiar with NH3 although 60% of refrigeration is using
it in large cquantaties but only serviced by less than 5 % of
technicians !
8. CO2 technology for small systems will ask to study again
and use new tools.
9. HC technology is pretty common in Europe with 110 million
appliances runnig on it at present.
10. HC use in small domestic AC systems is un-avoidable in
future ,it's zero ODP and Zero GWP and can be retrofitted
on existing systems without any problem and reduces 20%
energy consumption instantly?

So give us the dangers and accidents of the present fluids used and may be we will legislate in such a way that "Naturals" are becoming more accepted.

23-12-2004, 10:12 PM
I would rather use the HC refrigerants as dropins they are trouble free. I do not if R409 is available in your part of the world but is is one bad gas.

26-12-2004, 05:08 AM
This has nothing to do with refrigeration,

25-02-2005, 07:42 PM
Hi Wes....I'm new to this site, but have to agree with you...propane explosion in zamboni has NOTHING to do with the topic!! Also, I have a friend working out of Edmonton building ice rinks....perhaps you would know a Vic O'Connor?



26-02-2005, 04:36 AM
Hi there I know Vic very well thanks for the reply

26-02-2005, 08:27 PM
i rember a guy decided to braze some split aircon pipes of the unit he was installing in a computer server room ,he forgot to ask for the fire extinguisher to be turned off temporilly and the system went off, he could not see 1 foot in front of him how he held his breath for as long as he did and find the door to get out is a wonder of modern science ,lucky for him he had no after effects.
cost the company a fortune to get the fire system recharged.
And we always had some watching us work after that when we went there to service the unit .

26-02-2005, 08:37 PM
when i was about to finnish school on one of the school holidays my dad organized for me to get some work experience ,with a friend of his at his fridge/aircond. bussiness.

There i was just learning how to braze pipes when the big boss came over to see how i was doing, after complementing my newly learnt skill i turned picked up the pipe i had brazed for his inspection forgetting is was still f*****G hot ,boy do i still make sure the pipes have cooled right done before i go near them .
Man was i laughted at ,that hurt more than the pipes burn .

27-02-2005, 09:18 PM
I'm in transport refrigeration and I can clearly remember one ocation where I was about to loose my eyes:

I had a trailer unit with sized compressor. Compressor replacement was very basic thing for me. I closed (front seated) the compressor suction and discharge service valves and started to open the suction service valve mounting bolts. I loosen them and I shaked the valve with no refrigerant coming out (due the O-ring). Suddenly all the refrigerant from the compressor just blow out next to my face. Should my face been few centimetres in another location, I wouldn't been able to write this. I had about 8 years of experience of transport refrigeration at that point! So I basicly just stopped thinking at some point.

This was a dramatic reminder for me; Always think before do. Think think think !!!

EDIT: Not an accident, but good example when some repairs gets too routine. Then it just happens.

27-02-2005, 11:03 PM
Hi Guys,

I once had a problem while working on a fridge in the workshop.

We had an old SB2 which we had taken out of a scrap trailor, the unit was in a bad way so we decided to take off all the useable parts and scrap the frame.

Can't remeber why but we tried to take the evap out first, thinking it had been degassed i went at it hammer and tongs with my oxy/acl. Next thing bang, 8 kg of gas turning into mustard gas. i have never seen so many engineers run out of the wokshop so quick. Needless to say i felt a bit off for a few mins afterwards

I never made the same mistake again, all the old units were checked for gas after that



29-03-2005, 11:50 AM

May be we can together collect some information about the Safety aspects of fluids and also in the industry in total. It would be a great help for every body.

Anybody !!!!!


Following on from the various anecdotes and near misses, back to the original thread topic.
I've just stumbled across this, so apologies if it?s a little late.

In your last request about safety information, it already exists in the form of Health and Safety Data sheets (Material Safety Data sheets in some parts of the world) that all fluid manufacturers produce for their products. The presentation may vary, but the information format is the same.

As well as the physical safety of the chemical bear, in mind that you need to consider safety in use, transportation, end of life disposal. Different countries may also have their own legislation on safety.

You can download them from most manufacturer?s web sites or Google the refrigerant of your choice with MSD

Or try this link as an example

Additionally there are national and international standards on the generalities of refrigerant safety.
volcano digital (http://vaporizer.org/reviews/volcano)

08-05-2005, 08:45 PM
:) Hi guys. Really cheered me up visiting RE.com for the first time. Came across the site whilst trying to find if the old split A/C unit charged with R22 is safe. Anyway that is all history. Creased up at the post in "Training" about the guy trying to cool his swimming pool by taking on old frige apart etc: etc: etc: and charging it with propane and then using a borrowed blow torch to solder the ends. My AC knowledge is limited but as an ex fireman of 20years, I could just picture the results!!!!
Which in turn lead me to remember a time early on in my Fire service career. Thus the post in your accident forum.
We used to have to check all the fire extinguishers within the Military Station I worked. Including a number of vehicle mounted 3lb BCF (Bromo Chloro Difluro Methane) or (R something or other) extinguishers. To operate you hit the end on something hard and pointed at the fire. Great extinguisher, not very environmentally friendly and if you caught a wiff of the resultant gasses when mixed with fire this would take your breath away. (Thats another accident story)
These extinguishers were mounted upside down in the footwell of vehicles. As I removed the clip holding it in place, the extinguisher dropped, hit the step, I was still out side the vehicle, The rubber bung in the end of the nozzel hit me in the face at great force. Open mouthed at the shock, this bung was followed by what felt like the whole 3lb of BCF forced down my throat. As the laws of nature prove "what goes down, comes back up again" at great force as the expanding BCF found a way back out of my body by the nearest available exit.(with of course the contents of my stomach) Best projectile vomit even seen. and bloddy cold too.
Since BCF and your refridgerants are or were so similar, I could not resist the post.

Moral of the story - DON'T Drink the stuff!!!!!


Topcat (UK)