1. Any crew member, who discovers that there is a Freon leak must:
Move to an area of fresh air and warn other crew members;
Inform the chief engineer immediately;
Open up windows and doors and ventilate the space using fans or blowers, if practicable;
If he feels any unusual health effects, seek medical advice.
2. All crew members should be aware of the hazards which may be associated with handling of refrigerants on board.
3. Freon vapour is heavier than air and may accumulate in low-lying areas, at deck level, displacing oxygen and posing an asphyxiation hazard.
4. Odour is not an adequate indicator of the presence of Freon and does not provide reliable warning of hazardous concentrations.
5. Freons are generally non-flammable and non-combustible, however, when involved in a fire or in contact with heated surfaces (>480°C), Freons decompose producing hydrogen chloride, hydrogen fluoride, phosgene, and chlorine. All of these decomposition products are acutely toxic and are very hazardous even in low concentrations.
6. Freons are incompatible with perchloric acid, chromium trioxide, nitric acid, chemically active metals (such as aluminium and zinc), alkali metals (such as sodium and potassium); and alkaline earth metals (such as beryllium, magnesium, and calcium).
7. Freons generally have a low order of toxicity. However, exposure to relatively high concentrations (>100 ppm) may produce adverse effects on health. Possible exposure routes include inhalation, ingestion, skin and eye contact.
8. Freon vapour may cause irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and mucous membrane at low concentrations. At high concentrations, Freon vapour may cause pulmonary oedema and neurological problems such as central nervous system depression, dizziness, headache, drowsiness, tremors, seizures, confusion, lack of coordination, loss of consciousness, and paralysis.
9. Inhalation of high concentrations may also result in temporary alteration of the heart’s electrical activity. The sensitivity of the heart to the arrhythmogenic action of epinephrine will increase, causing irregular pulse, palpitations, or inadequate circulation. Deliberate inhalation (‘sniffing’) may cause death without warning.
10. At extremely high concentrations; several thousand parts per million (ppm), Freon vapour has the potential to reduce the amount of oxygen available for breathing, especially in confined spaces, which can lead to asphyxiation.
11. Skin contact with liquid Freon can cause frostbite. Repeated skin contact with Freon gas may also cause drying with rashes.
12. Chronic exposure to Freon may produce weakness, pain, and paresthesias (a sensation of numbness, tingling or burning) in the legs. Chronic fluorocarbon exposure has been linked with motor, memory and learning deficits. Long-term inhalation of high concentrations may also lead to abnormal liver function with hepatic lesions.
First aid on ship in case of Freon hazard
1. Eyes – If eye tissue is frozen, obtain medical attention immediately. If eye tissue is not frozen, immediately flush eyes with large amounts of water for at least 15 minutes, occasionally lifting the lower and upper eyelids. If irritation, pain, swelling, tearing, or sensitisation to light persists, obtain medical attention as soon as possible.
2. Skin – If frostbite has occurred, do not rub the affected area. Flush with water or remove frozen clothing from frostbitten area and seek medical attention immediately. Otherwise, immediately remove contaminated clothing and wash contaminated area with soap and water for at least 15 minutes. Seek medical attention, especially if redness, itching, or burning is evident.
3. Ingestion – If Freons are ingested, do not induce vomiting, as the hazard of aspirating the material into the lungs is greater than allowing it to progress through the intestinal tract. Drink one to two glasses of warm water and obtain medical attention if necessary.
4. Inhalation – Move the exposed individual to fresh air immediately. If the person is not breathing, give artificial respiration. If the person has difficulty breathing, give oxygen. Seek medical attention.
Safe handling of ship Freon
Best practices for the safe handling of refrigerants on ship include
1. Store refrigerants in a clean, dry area out of direct sunlight, where temperature that does not exceed 50°C;
2. Never pressurise refrigerant systems or vessels with air for leak testing or any other purpose;
3. Never tamper with cylinder valves or pressure relief devices;
4. Never reuse or recharge disposable cylinders;
5. Wear protective clothing such as gloves and eye protection when handling any refrigerant;
6. Avoid contact with liquid refrigerant because frostbite may occur;
7. Avoid exposure to vapours through spills or leaks;
8. Evacuate the area if a large spill occurs. Return only after the area has been properly ventilated;
9. Verify proper cylinder hookup to the system;
10. Check to be sure the cylinder label matches the colour code;
11. Open cylinder valves slowly;
12. Avoid rough handling of refrigerant cylinders;
13. Do not perform any repair on pressurised equipment. Verify that the system has been completely evacuated with a vacuum pump before opening any lines;
14. Before welding or brazing, evacuate the equipment and then break the vacuum with air or nitrogen;
15. Always ventilate the work area before using open flames.