In order to preserve the ozone layer, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning sector uses now new refrigerants that are not greenhouse gases. The other side of the coin is, these new refrigerants (R600a, R32, R1234yf, R290, …) are flammable, unlike those used before. Unfortunately, accidents are beginning to be repeated on African soil.
In Burkina Faso, Niger and Zimbabwe, refrigeration technicians suffered very serious burns while handling flammable refrigerants. There were explosions and serious fires!
These gases, although eco-responsible, ignite at the slightest spark! Madi Sakandé, President U-3ARC (Union of African Associations and Actors of Refrigeration and Air Conditioning), assures us that we can never say it enough, we need awareness in all directions to avoid tragedies in the use and handling of such gases, such as R600a, R32, R1234yf and R290. For example, isobutane or R600a is a hydrocarbon used in refrigeration equipment, such as domestic refrigerators, minibars, or small commercial refrigeration appliances. It is eco-responsible, but unfortunately remains flammable! This is where the shoe pinches. It turns out that until now, technicians have worked with refrigerants, such as HCFC (R22) and HFC (R404A - R410A and R134a) which have contributed to greenhouse gases on the one hand and on the other hand have done a lot of damage to the ozone layer, and should be banned under the Montreal Protocol and the Kigali Amendment. These HCFC and HFC refrigerants were not flammable.
Train, educate and equip technicians
If for a refrigerator, you only need 100 to 120 g of R600a gas, for air conditioners or other larger refrigeration equipment, the quantities exceed one kilogram of gas, we are told. Precisely, the U-3ARC president challenges decision-makers to awareness campaigns, the organization of training for technicians, but also and above all draws attention to equip technicians with measuring equipment, in order to respect the standards. Testimonies of technicians who suffered serious burns following resounding explosions – one of them, of Niger nationality, was even propelled out of the place of his intervention. After noticing that his client's refrigerator (a shop) was not cooling, he just opened the valve… inside the shop. Unfortunately, the accident happened when a lighter was lit by a customer... "I tried to stop the leak with pliers, but the blast was so powerful that I was ejected from the premises. “, he revealed. From now on, this Nigerian technician advises to handle these gases in the workshop first and above all to avoid working in situ for more protection.