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Fatal incidents need concerted response

Graeme Fox: “We we should be sharing our knowledge with our colleagues around the world”

​UK: The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) has called for a greater focus on training and safety following recent refrigeration and air conditioning related fatalities in Nigeria. 

BESA’s head of technical Graeme Fox said a recent report on the Cooling Post of a spate of refrigeration and air conditioning related deaths and injuries in Nigeria was probably “the tip of the iceberg” and called for a concerted response from the global industry.

Following the deaths of seven people and several more were injured in at least five explosions across the city of Abeokuta, local officials temporarily banned refrigerant sales and shut down service and maintenance operations. Initial reports suggested the explosions may have a number of causes including fake or faulty cylinders, contaminated gas and human error.

Refrigerant Driving Licence

Fox, who is a former president of the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration European Association (AREA), was instrumental in setting up an international Refrigerant Driving Licence scheme for safe refrigerant handling on behalf of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

When the project launched six years ago, UNEP was growing increasingly concerned about the lack of understanding and training to improve safety in many emerging markets. The idea was that the developed nations would share their expertise with emerging industries to improve safety and professionalism.

“These latest reports from Nigeria emphasise just why this scheme is so important. It was delayed because pandemic travel restrictions prevented the experts from training the trainers in each pilot country,” said Fox, who is also head of technical for the UK’s main F-gas register REFCOM.

“It now needs to be restarted without delay. Accidents are happening daily, and it is a miracle we have not had more deaths especially with the growth in use of new alternative gases, many of which are flammable.”

Fox also warned against complacency in the UK and Europe, pointing out that there was a recent near miss in the UK when an engineer vented flammable R290 in a kitchen served by a grease extract system that could easily have ignited and caused severe damage.

“The growing amount of flammable gas being used by our industry means we must up our game on competence training. Getting our own contractor base trained up is clearly a priority, but we should be simultaneously sharing our knowledge with our colleagues around the world.”

Related stories:

Fridge work banned after explosions24 May 2021
NIGERIA: The Nigerian state of Ogun has banned the sale of refrigerants and the servicing and repairing air-conditioning and refrigerating units following a number of fatal explosions. Read more…

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