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R-410A Opens Up Liability to Industry

The HVACR industry has been using HCFC’s since the 1940’s. Due to environmental and competitive pressure, HCFCs including R-22 are being phased-out. In response, many of the manufacturers began selling equipment that uses HCFC-410A. R-410A presently marketed under the brand names Honeywell AZ-20, Carrier Puron, or DuPont Suva.

Air conditioning equipment manufactured for R-410A will require contractors and technicians to shift to different tools, equipment and SAFETY STANDARDS when installing or changing out older split A/C systems and repairing systems in the field. 

R-410 has a much higher vapor pressure than R-22. The discharge pressure of R-410A is approximately 50% to 70% higher than R-22. These higher pressures create some safety concerns.

A few years ago, a teacher was notified that a former student had died while using an aluminum ladder near a power line. The teacher was enjoined in a lawsuit along with the school and state for the technician’s death. While the student had graduated almost a decade earlier, the teacher and the system were facing a $1,000,000.00 lawsuit.

Every HVAC school, wholesaler, manufacturer and contractor opens them self up to a great deal of liability when safety is not taught and demanded. However, in this case the school had a strict policy of conducting safety training and documenting it with a signed certification exam. The signature on the exam told the judge that the technician had received proper ladder safety training and the case was dismissed.

The case is one of many incidents’ that demonstrate the need for safety training documented by a signature on a test. If a wholesaler has a customer injured in the field after purchasing R-410A from them, they can and more than likely will be enjoined in a lawsuit. Having offered them training, providing a certificate of attendance or offering a take home / online test is not enough. Contractors, Wholesalers, Manufacturers, and Schools are all open to liability when they do not have a signed safety certification. Contractors are open to liability beyond a normal workmen’s compensation claim if safety protocols were not in place such as lack of training or missing documentation.

To address the issues of safe handling, training and certification with the use of R-410A the industry worked together to unify behind a Universal R-410A Safety Training and Certification program. The AC&R Safety Coalition members include RSES, ESCO Institute, Ferris State University, Indoor Air Quality Association, Industrial Technology Excellence, Green Mechanical Council, HVAC Excellence, COSA and the United Association. Together working with numerous manufacturers, wholesalers and industry associations they have developed a Universal R-410A curriculum for the industry. 

The AC&R Safety Coalition program development team includes: Professors from Ferris State University, the Education director from the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), and the ESCO Institute Professional Development Team which consist of retired industry educators and administrators. Collectively their teams hold numerous credentials including: Ph.D., P.E., and CMHE and have authored many of the industry leading textbooks.

The training program includes: 
Training Manual: A 102 page soft cover that provides the necessary training and practical knowledge to safely perform service on systems containing R-410A and R-407C. In addition, the manual includes information on: the R-22 phase-out, appropriate refrigerant and oil applications, service techniques, as well as safe handling of R-410A. 

CD-Rom: Reviews the book chapter by chapter in an interactive manner. The CD breaks R-410A training into categories each with specific sub topics. Each category contains practice questions to help trainees to successfully prepare for their R-410A Certification.

Instructors Guide: Includes a section by section overview of objectives, lessons plans, section by section mapping to the Power Point presentation, and approximate time frames.

Power Point Presentation: This presentation with speaker’s notes is available to keep the program on track.

The training program can be offered as a traditional class or home self study depending on the needs of the training organization. Persons who have completed their training then take a proctored exam to validate that the technicians understands and comprehends the safety issues of working with R-410A. Successful test takers receive a wall certificate and patch. The program provides third party documentation of safety training. 

Not worried about safety, just remember Liebeck versus McDonald’s in 1992, also known as the McDonald’s coffee case. A jury awarded $2.86 million to a woman who burned herself after purchasing coffee at the McDonald's drive thru.

Certification matters! A signed examination that is conducted in the presence of a test administrator is the only way to limit liability. 

It is important that technicians receive proper safety training and become familiar with policies that include those of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). A new safety curriculum designed to protect technicians and limit liability is now available from coalition member ESCO Institute.

The 3,000 contractor members of the Mechanical Contractors Association of America and the 350,000 members of the United Association can purchase the AC&R Safety Coalition through the UA bookstore. RSES members should contact RSES at 847 759-4044. Educators and wholesalers interested in offering the program should contact ESCO Institute at 800 726-9696, Ferris State University at 866 880-7674 or visit www.hx1.net for more information. 

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