By Barney Richardson

Since the start of registrations with ACRICSA in the early 2000s a selected group of Unit Standards were used for training in the safe handling of refrigerants.

The registration then became a legal requirement with the publication of the Pressure Equipment Regulations in 2009. The Unit Standards have endured the passage of time, but with the changes and revisions to the refrigeration and air conditioning trades as well as new regulatory requirements, a change has become necessary. In particular the Kigali amendment to the Montreal Protocol and the world-wide phase out of HCFC and HFC refrigerants has influenced the new formula for training.

SARACCA, in conjunction with ACRA, have revised and edited the training material to suit today’s needs.

Registration with SAQCC Gas has become even more important to ensure competence of those entrusted with installing, maintaining, and repairing refrigeration and air conditioning equipment.

The new training manual will be made available and distributed through recognised training providers. Each student will be given a book which he/she must keep safe for future training and reference. The book must be available for when the renewal top-up training comes around every three years. The cost of the books will be covered by the safe handling of refrigerants training course fee.

A student, new to the industry, and wishing to enrol for the safe handling of refrigerants course, must have at least two months experience at their employer. This student practitioner must have a basic knowledge of tools to be used and the trade specific tools of refrigeration such as how to read refrigeration pressure gauges. An understanding of the refrigeration cycle and how it works is also a necessity. The student must have some knowledge of safety and the use of safety and protection gear.

An already qualified artisan will have these basic skills assuming that he/she has been in the refrigeration industry for some years or just recently passed a trade test. It is assumed that experience of refrigeration at various levels will have been achieved whether it be in air conditioning, commercial refrigeration or in specialist refrigeration such as carbon dioxide or ammonia.

The refined training in the safe handling of refrigerants covers, as a starting point, F-gas as the focus and includes the hydrocarbon and carbon dioxide refrigerants.

The specialist ammonia safe handling portion is currently being developed. This will include the knowledge modules, with the added safety and response procedures specific to ammonia.

The training scope cover knowledge modules with self-testing and assessment questionnaire – the theoretical knowledge covers health and safety as per the OHS Act and Pressure Equipment Regulations.

Identification and handling of refrigerants and lubricants – the procedures for recovery of refrigerant and pressure testing of a system and charging with refrigerant.

The practical modules will all be at the training provider’s school with full assessment of the tasks.

Practical application of the knowledge portion through hands-on recovery of a refrigerant; the pressure testing with an inert gas like nitrogen, evacuation and charging must all be demonstrated to the satisfaction of the assessor. The installation of units and components, and basic maintenance and repair is also covered.

The workplace experience will cover items such as installation of a split air conditioning units, or installation of refrigeration components and piping. A logbook of this experience must be submitted before a certificate for the safe handling of refrigerants can be issued and application for registration is made.