A vehicle air conditioner exploded last week causing serious burns to a mine worker in Queensland.

The worker was injured when the cabin exploded while driving the truck. The accident caused serious burns to the worker’s face, hands and chest.

His eyes were protected from the blast by safety glasses.

The explosion originated in the truck’s air-conditioning (AC) unit, which was charged with a refrigerant containing propane and isobutane instead of complying with the original equipment manufacturer (OEM)’s requirement which specifies the use of R134a refrigerant.

According to the Queensland Mines Inspectorate, the AC was not certified to use the hydrocarbon refrigerant, adding that the personnel servicing the AC did not hold Queensland Gas Work licences for working with the refrigerant.

As a result, the release of hydrocarbon refrigerant from the AC into the cabin created an explosive atmosphere which was ignited by an unidentified source.

“A similar incident occurred in 2014 when a drill operator in a coal mine suffered burns to the face, hands and torso in an explosion after hydrocarbon refrigerant leaked from the AC system and ignited,” the inspectorate stated.

An investigation is underway.

The inspectorate urged site senior executives to inspect all refrigeration plant and equipment including AC units on mobile plant to verify compliance with OEM guidance.

-          With Safe to Work

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