HONG KONG: Following a fatal air conditioning explosion and fire in 2013, the Government in Hong Kong is advising the trade not to adopt flammable refrigerants.
Hong Kong’s secretary for the environment Wong Kam-sing made his flammable comments in answer to a question by Hon Lo Wai-kwok a member of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong for the engineering constituency.
The question was tabled following the report compiled by the Office of The Ombudsman into the explosion and fire broke in a restaurant in Ma On Shan in 2013 during the repair of an air conditioning systems, injuring 20 people.
The incident was blamed on the use of “unsuitable and flammable” refrigerants for the relevant air-conditioning systems.
Increasing use of flammables
Referring to the Ombudsman’s Report, Lo Wai-kwok pointed out that new-generation more eco-friendly, but flammable, refrigerants are becoming more commonly used outside Hong Kong, and some advertisements on the internet also promote such refrigerants to Hong Kong users. He asked whether the authorities have, in response to this trend, sought to understand the regulatory arrangements adopted by other places for flammable refrigerants, including import and export management, safety requirements for installation and repair, training of air conditioning technicians, etc.
He also asked whether, with the phase-out of some traditional refrigerants under the Montreal Protocol, the authorities would cooperate with the relevant industries to formulate a list of compliant refrigerants for convenient selection by the public and to step up publicity on the safety of refrigerants among employees in the relevant industries and the public.
A question was also asked as to whether the Government would rationalise the present situation under which different government departments are responsible for regulating the different aspects of refrigerants.
Use prescribed refrigerants
In reply, the secretary for the environment stated that there was nothing to indicate that air conditioning manufacturers had stopped the production of air conditioning equipment using non-flammable HFCs. He said that domestic air conditioners available in the local market did not use flammable refrigerants and there was no information suggesting that the local market will turn to use flammable refrigerants.
“Users should install and apply air conditioning system according to the manuals provided by manufacturers, and should also adopt the prescribed refrigerants,” he said.
In conclusion, he said: “While there is no market trend for using flammable refrigerants in Hong Kong, relevant departments have strengthened co-ordination and collaboration with a view to monitoring the development of flammable refrigerants in a more focused manner, promoting public education and publicity for the public and air conditioning trade, and advising the trade not to adopt flammable refrigerants for the avoidance of accidents.
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