I'm an electrician; can I cut your hair?
22nd May 2010
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I’m an electrician; can I cut your hair?

Last week James (one of our consultants) was visiting a client and undertaking a site survey to enable the design and specification of a ventilation and air conditioning system.  During the survey it was noted that there were some air conditioning units that were no longer required, so James asked the client whether provision had been made for the safe decommissioning and disposal of the units. The client’s response was “I’ll just get my builder to cut the pipes and throw it in the skip.

Fortunately for the client James, who has over 20 years experience in the industry, advised him that not only was it illegal to do this (you need to have EU recognised qualifications), but more importantly there were significant health and safety implications including:

·         Air conditioning systems have refrigerant gases within them, and these are maintained at very high pressures (sometimes in excess of 400 psi).

·         Cutting a pipe or even disconnecting at a valve can result in the high pressure gas being exerted onto the skin causing “cold burns” or the removal of natural oils from the skin.

·         If the refrigerant splashes into the eyes, the tissue or eye fluids could freeze ultimately causing blindness.

·         Inhalation of excess refrigerant vapour could irritate the respiratory tract; higher concentrations may have anaesthetic effects and / or adversely affect the heart.

A secondary worry for the client was the fact that if the builder had attempted to dispose of the system and was injured during the process, this could result in the client being sued, oh, and the not-so-insignificant fine of up to £20,000 for the illegal release of refrigerant into the air.

Anyway, the upshot of this discussion was that the client was more informed and understood the need to employ someone that had the necessary qualifications and experience, was able to carry out the requisite risk assessments and was registered with the Environment Agency to safely transport hazardous waste. It goes without saying that we were appointed to carry out this task (as well as the main project), but the irony is that it probably didn’t cost the customer much more than he would have paid the builder!

If you are looking to replace your existing air conditioning system, then call us on 020 8427 4672 and we will be happy to talk to you about this as well as the safe decommissioning of your old system.

About the Author

Prashant B

Member since: 23rd August 2010

Prashant is a Director of Aire Serv, a leading international air conditioning, ventilation, heating and commercial refrigeration business, and is responsible for the NW London region.

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