Refrigerant Safety

By Ken Harris

Summer -- the season of non-stop service calls from customers needing you to fix A/C units. During this busy time of servicing cooling equipment, the possibility of getting hurt from exposure to dangerous refrigerant is high. Stay safe on the job with these tips.

Cover up

  • Refrigerant is very cold when released -- so cold, in fact, that your hands could become frostbitten from exposure if you aren't wearing protective gear. Any time you are connecting or disconnecting gauges or testing equipment, make sure you wear gloves.
  • If it gets in your eyes, refrigerant can blind you. Protect yourself with goggles or a face shield.
  • Even if you're just testing whether a compressor is defective, wear proper protective equipment and stand to the side of the compressor -- not directly in front of it. This protects you in case the terminals explode and refrigerant comes out.

Look out for leaks

  • Always check devices, gaskets, seals, hoses, and valves for leaks.
  • Make sure your leak detector is turned on -- refrigerant is tasteless and odorless, so it's difficult to sense a leak on your own.
  • Be especially careful in confined areas like crawl spaces. Refrigerant is heavier than air and forces oxygen out of the room, which can result in light-headedness and even suffocation.
  • If you're working on a commercial job where a leak would involve a large amount of refrigerant, it's wise to use a self-protective breathing apparatus to provide your own oxygen.

What to do in the case of an accident

  • If your skin comes in contact with refrigerant, flush the area with water. If the skin is frostbitten, run lukewarm -- not hot -- water over it, or cover the affected area with a clean, soft cloth and seek medical attention.
  • If refrigerant gets in your eyes, flush them with warm water for 10 to 15 minutes and seek medical attention.
  • If you think someone has inhaled refrigerant, get that person out of that area, perform CPR and call 911 immediately.

Prepare for the summer rush and avoid injuries on the job by brushing up on your cooling equipment and safety training.

Check out the BuildATech® and A/C and Heat Pump Diagnostics classes from HVAC Learning Solutions.

Guest blogger Ken Harris is a technical trainer for HVAC Learning Solutions.

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