A document released at the beginning of July by the Deutscher Feuerwehr Verband (DFV) or German Fireworkers´Association – the country’s national association of firefighters and first responders – has stated on behalf of its members that it is “now convinced that the new refrigerant R-1234yf has the same safety standards as R-134a.”
As the industry moves toward full adoption of new refrigerants by 2017, the fireworkers were concerned about any increased dangers they might meet. The organization investigated the new refrigerant for hazards to first responders at collision and accident scenes, and sought guidance from VDA, the well known association of German OEMs and suppliers.
VDA provided extensive information about the properties of R-1234yf and even performed some additional tests at the request of the DFV. After studying the information provided to them, including comparisons to today’s R-134a, the DFV stated its conclusions. They found
• The very low toxicity of both products is comparable.
• There is no higher risk [from the new refrigerant] with fire in closed buildings and parking buildings.
• The usage of the refrigerant is safe for passengers and first-aiders.
• The producers of the refrigerant will provide a Safety Data Sheet (in the U.S we would call it an MSDS) with specific information for first responders.
• The presence of the refrigerant will not affect the normal guidelines for incident response.
Additionally, DFV noted that while R-1234yf is acknowledged as flammable, “a high energy (> 1000mJ ) is necessary” to ignite it. They also noted that the German transportation regulatory body TÜV characterizes R-1234yf as “very difficult to ignite in reality.”