Shaun Evers, MD of Stonegate Instruments, discusses the potential threats associated with refrigerant leaks, health and safety concerns, and the gas detection technology supporting various sectors.

Refrigeration systems play a critical role in many businesses from factories and warehouses to transportation and offices. Throughout the pandemic, refrigeration units have been extremely important in the storage and transportation of temperature- sensitive products such as fresh food produce, to keep up with increasing demand, and delicate pharmaceuticals, including vaccinations.

COLD THREATS The refrigerant gases used in all refrigerant systems

can pose a significant threat to the health and safety of workers should a leak occur. For example, if exposed to these leaking gases for prolonged periods of time employees may be at risk of frostbite, chemical burns and even brain damage. However, it is not just the gases that are a concern as extended periods of time in cold environments, without the suitable protective clothing, can lead to arthritis, rheumatism, bronchitis and more seriously, hypothermia.

These dangers are often the result of poorly maintained equipment, leading to a gas leak, or from human error and employees becoming trapped within a refrigerated space.

KEEPING COMPLIANT In early 2020 the European Commission brought in

F-gas regulations as part of a policy to combat climate change. The plan is to phase down the CO2 equivalent emissions from hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) by 79% (relative to 2015) by 2030. As the UK have now left the EU, the UK government has specified that businesses will have to apply for a new GB HFC quota while they follow the same CO2 phase down as was specified by the European Commission.

These regulations place a greater focus on carrying out regular gas leak checks on systems. Operators of stationary refrigeration equipment, heat pumps, air conditioners and refrigeration units of refrigerated trucks and trailers that contain F-gases in quantities of five tonnes CO2 equivalent, or more, must ensure that equipment is routinely monitored. For apparatus without gas leak detection installed, the period between mandatory gas leak checks lessens.

This legislation not only supports environmental concerns but also offers a level of safety to employees, without whom you would not have a successful operation. Safety and sustainability unite together to create a long-term and positive outlook to customers, stakeholders and the public.

While most legislation seems to focus more on the environment there are mandatory regulations to


protect employees specifically, such as the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992.

EMPLOYING LEADING TECHNOLOGY The key to limiting exposure to F-gas and risk of

injury lies in the early detection of any gas release. The latest generation of sophisticated yet compact gas leak detectors can pinpoint a comprehensive range of refrigerants including Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). This ensures not only a company’s workforce remains safe but also the environment.

It is worth considering that a small continuous leak, left unrepaired for three months, could use an extra 10kW in electricity – equivalent to approximately £1,400 in energy bills – once the leak becomes critical. This is why some leading detection systems on the market have a proven ROI of just two years, and that is without taking into consideration the cost of repairs to an existing faulty system.

As well as leak detectors, sophisticated refrigerant sensors equipment is available with signalling alarms, LED lights that indicate the presence and status of each sensor and also audio/visual alarms to alert staff of trapped personnel. All this technology minimises the risk to the health and safety of employees, complies with the requirements of the EU F-Gas Regulations, supports the DSEAR legislation and can save businesses money.

In an age where so many businesses are being made accountable for general health, safety and environmental concerns it makes sense to invest in robust gas detection and alert systems to help manage ongoing risk, maintain compliance and maintain a strong positive reputation.

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