By Andrew Perks

I occasionally sit and think about all those times in my life where I’ve thought I will never see the end to some problems – yet we always do, because we must.

Yes, it’s been a long time since I first started work at L Stern & Co in Glasgow in October 1962, and oh my goodness, what a journey it has been.

Those were the days where we did 5-year apprenticeships, went to night school, and worked 45-hour weeks, all for an initial £2.6 pence a week. Yes, you could buy a fair bit with that then.

Think about it – this was the time when the Beatles brought out “Love Me Do”– really a different world back then. How the industry has also changed since. L Stern folded in 1969, and no I had nothing to do with it, they were just a company that had not moved on. Still, as they say, you can’t keep a good man down, they had some really good engineers, and from the ashes spawned Star Refrigeration, an internationally renowned refrigeration company where incidentally both of my children work in the UK.

I learned a lot at L Stern, and followed up with a stint at Howdens, then Stal before arriving in South Africa in 1974 to work for Grenco. I thought I was top of my game until I was thrown in at the deep end. I remember my first day at the office in Cape Town and was informed that in South Africa you do it all. Design, sell, project and commission – sink or swim.

My first project was the installation of an ice-maker for Spekenham in Bellville, and it’s still there. I see the condenser whenever I drive past the building. Obviously not operational anymore, but as the site has built up all around it, I suppose it’s more trouble than it’s worth to remove.

I ended up in Johannesburg for some time as the contract manager for Grenco. Those were formative years and Grenco was the right place for me to be. I can honestly say that whilst I ‘knew’ refrigeration it was at Grenco where I learned it, eventually leaving there as a design engineer. Those were good years.

Since then, I have run my own contracting company, Coldpak, and have built and owned a few cold stores. It’s been an interesting journey but something that always troubled me was the shortfall in our industry when it comes to training. Whilst we upskilled a good number of artisans and technicians at Coldpak, the need to add back into the industry was always in my mind.

So, in 2004 I set out to try to recycle some of my hard-won knowledge back into the industry. Working with Hans Damhuis, we developed 14 SAQA unit standards across the industry. I must confess that while we were actively involved in the ‘Freon’ industry at Coldpak, anyone that knows me will tell you that my passion has always been Ammonia. So much so that I developed the ‘Safe Handling of Ammonia unit standard’ which is currently being taught today. My other passion is safety. There are so many more incidents these days that in all honesty could have been easily avoided if the correct training and procedures were in place.

It’s time for me to move on again and this will be the last article for the RACA Journal – which is sad in a way since I have been doing these since February 2015.

However, I am not giving up my drive for safety in the industry. Far from it – we are actively involved in Ammonia site incident response training, so I am moving my contributions onto a publication that is more involved in the straight refrigeration side of the industry.

In future you will find me in the Cold Link Africa publication. I trust that you have all found something of interest in my articles over the years and will continue to strive towards a safer working environment for all.

Remember, stay safe!

Interact Media Defined (IMD), owners and publishers of the RACA Journal, would like to sincerely thank Mr Andrew Perks for his dedicated support through his many contributions over the years, and we look forward to his continued participation in another of our publications, Cold Link Africa.