ACHRNEWS

Of valves, refrigerants, and personal responsibilty

July 13, 2000
In the August 9 issue, The News published one of the most thought-provoking letters we have ever received. The letter, and our editorial response, were placed under the headline, “Are we to blame for a young man’s injury?” Rita Oberhofer, the mother of a young man who has suffered brain damage, blamed the hvacr industry for his “easy” access to a refrigerant, which he deliberately inhaled. We disagreed, and placed the responsibility on the man himself. (Since then, we have learned that a lawsuit has been filed against the manufacturer of the condensing unit that contained the refrigerant.) We have received almost 50 responses, including one from Ms. Oberhofer, which is published here. The majority of the responses from News subscribers were in support of our rebuttal. Some of those responses are published here, and more will be provided in next week’s issue. You may send your comments to The News Editor at 248-362-0317 (fax); hvac@bnp.com (e-mail).

Old enough to know

Design Temperature Corp. Chicago, Ill.

At what age do we stop protecting our young? At what point do we say, you’re old enough to know better?

Should we have a recall? I think not. Should the industry pay for a PSA? Of course. We must teach the parents so they can teach their own.

Anthony Scimeca

Don't regulate hammers

Johnstone Supply of Seattle Seattle, Wash.

I don’t believe your words were harsh enough. Parents seem so naive when it comes to the resourcefulness of their children.

No amount of industry control or lockout procedures will keep out a determined individual and, in fact, children seem to be more resourceful than most.

All living beings would have an acute reaction to sucking on “Freon.” It causes oxygen deprivation along with many other chemicals and gases.

It continues to go back to personal responsibility. Don’t regulate hammers because if someone chose to hit themselves over the head with it they could get hurt. Raise your children to responsibly evaluate risk and assume the consequences when they choose wrong.

Bob Davis General Manager

Take responsiblity

Plano, Texas

A good Christian upbringing with some family values and education about substance abuse would put a stop to this nonsense. As parents we should know what is going on in our children’s lives and see the warning signs. Where were you? Get off your soap box and take responsibility for your actions!

Ron Copeland

How we handle the problem

Commercial Climate Controls Corp

Royal Oak, Mich.

We developed a policy to address this and to get ourselves out the potential liability loop. When we find a unit missing the caps and low on refrigerant, we assume that this “sniffing” is the cause of the gas loss.

We install standard caps after recharge and immediately send the owner a letter offering the installation of locking caps. If the man has a set on his truck, he’ll also make the offer on the spot.

When we first heard of this inane sniffing, we sent that letter to every one of our customers with non-rooftop or otherwise accessible equipment. We had only one taker to the offer, where the cap and charge loss situation had been on-going for several years. But until recently we didn’t know that anyone was producing locking covers.

They are expensive, $40 for a set of two. We sell them installed for a price of $80, which doesn’t really cover the cost of the trip, but it gets us out of the liability question.

Seems silly to have to lock an access fitting and its one more key (at a really high price) that every tech has to carry. But with litigation the way it is in the nation, it’s the far less expensive course.

Ralph Schwan

Old fashioned, ignored

Willow Grove, Pa.

The News’ response to Ms. Oberhofer is correct. Too bad the truth will be ignored because American culture that made this nation great is ignored. We who accept responsibility for our actions are old fashioned and ignored.

Barrie A. Miller

Controlled substances

ACCO, Inc. Louisville, Ky.

I believe that we should be as diligent as possible to secure our cooling systems from theft of the refrigerant for a number of reasons. After all, refrigerants are “controlled substances.” But to accept responsibility for the physical damage done to an individual while they commit a criminal act is not justified.

C. Vincent Schmidt, P.E.

The wrong direction

If anything, you were very light on where the responsibility lays. An 18-year-old who’s only goal in life is to get high has long since experimented with many different kind of substances. I am of the opinion that most of the damage was done before the “Freon” sniffing.

I am sorry for this lady’s pain. She has a right to be angry, but the anger is turned in the wrong direction.

Steve Hermes

Another mother responds

I totally agree with your response to this mother’s story. Certainly, being a mother myself, I cannot imagine the loss of child (either mentally or physically) but to try to put the blame on others is not fair.

This industry has been around for many, many years as has the aerosol, gasoline, and many others. Because “unhappy” adolescents fall into the hands of the sick minds of some people, it is not the industries’ place to “fix” their problems.

I believe we should make every attempt to improve products for safety reasons, but you cannot expect to have companies recall as product because of a “dumb move” on someone’s part.

We can only do our best with products as she can only do her best with raising her child.

Jo Ann Goodall

Test and certify parents

Gabrilson Htg & A/C Co Davenport, Iowa

I couldn’t believe another irresponsible parent was blaming an industry, equipment manufacturer, and producer of refrigerant for her inadequacies as a parent.

Don’t get me wrong, I am very sorry that her son made an error in judgement, but you cannot blame an industry for the illegal actions of a young adult.

You did miss one item: he was also “stealing!” All in all, I think your rebuttal was wonderful and I appreciate you taking a stand in what is a very delicate matter.

I probably would have suggested that the real way to stop substance abuse would be to test and certify potential parents in the area of teaching their children the hazards of everyday life that we all must face.

Thomas D. Gabrilson

'Dangerous condition' is not a trade secret

Sean’s Friends Laguna Hills, Calif.

Thank you for publishing my story. It is a positive start in the right direction.

As the editor, your public response to me is probably indicative of the industry’s overall attitude towards the dangerous situation now existing across the country as a result of the servicing port valve used by thousands and thousands of air conditioners.

Let me remind you that when the oil companies found out their pumping units, also called “grasshoppers,” were being used creatively by children to “ride,” resulting in injuries and deaths, the oil companies were required by law to take responsibility. Pumping units all across the country are now safety-fenced.

Unfortunately, your response lacks knowledge of the statistics of “use” and “deaths” across the country. We are not dealing with the behavior of a few. I would suggest you make it a point to know and understand the research that is available.

The industry can continue to stick its head in the sand. However, because of Sean’s Friends, the knowledge of the dangerous condition that exists from the easy service port valve is no longer an industry trade secret.

I do believe some serious consequences face the air conditioning and refrigeration industry in the future. Rita M. Oberhofer Founder of Sean’s Friends