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Why is it necessary to be registered as an authorised refrigeration practitioner?

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By Barney Richardson

The answer is because competence in the handling of refrigerant gases is necessary to ensure that the threat to the Ozone layer is minimised and Global warming is avoided.

The answer is because competence in the handling of refrigerant gases is necessary to ensure that the threat to the Ozone layer is minimised and Global warming is avoided.

Regulations have been gazetted and entrenched in the Law of the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) ACT number 85, and, regulations originally published in 1993. The Pressure Equipment Regulations in particular were written and published in July 2009 as part of the Act.

The regulations define an “authorised person” as a “person who is registered as competent within the scope of work for which an organisation approved by the chief inspector has registered that person”. This authorised person has been confirmed as being the registered “authorised refrigeration gas practitioner” for the refrigeration and air conditioning industry.

The SAQCC Gas is mandated by the Department of Employment and Labour with the responsibility for registration, setting training and assessment criteria, and maintaining a database of active registered practitioners. In consultation it was agreed that the registration card would be valid for three years and that renewal would be required at the end of the third year.

The regulations within the Pressure Equipment Regulations that are of concern here to us are Regulation 2 and Regulation 17. 

Regulation 2 states that: “These regulations shall apply to the design, manufacture, operation, repair, modification, maintenance, inspection and testing of pressure equipment with a design pressure equal to or greater than 50 kPa, in terms of the relevant health and safety standard incorporated into these Regulations under section 44 of the Act”.

This is very clear that refrigeration systems operate at pressures in excess of the 50kPa. It is therefore the requirement and responsibility of a mechanic in the refrigeration industry to be compliant. Compliance is, therefore, a legal commitment and requirement in the OHS Act.

Regulation 17 states that: “No person shall – 

  1. Handle, store or distribute any gas in any manner, which includes the filling of a container, other than in accordance with the relevant health and safety standard incorporated into these Regulations under section 44 of the Act;
  2. Install or remove an appliance, pressure equipment or system for gas in any manner other than in accordance with the relevant safety standard incorporated into these Regulations under section 44 of the Act; 
  3. Install or remove a gas appliance, or a gas system or a gas reticulation system, unless such person is an authorised person; or 
  4. Use pressure equipment or systems for gas in any manner other than in accordance with the relevant safety standard incorporated into these Regulations under section 44 of the Act. (2) After installation or re-installation, and before commissioning a gas system, the user shall ensure that an external inspection and a leak test are performed by an authorised person or an approved inspection authority as applicable in terms of sub regulations (1)(c). (3) An authorised person or an approved inspection authority shall issue a certificate of conformity after completion of a gas installation, modification, alteration or change of user or ownership in the form of Annexure 1”.

The renewal requirement every three years has caused some people a great deal of consternation because of the cost. What they need to do is to plan and make allowance in their budgets for compliance and the renewal. SAQCC Gas has a budget and has to secure the income necessary to run the registration process and cover the Certificate of Conformity on line requirement costs.

An added cost has now come into play with renewal. This is that all mechanics must attend a refresher course to ensure that they are up to date with refrigeration practice, the gases being used and introduced as part of the phase out regulations. The new manual for this will go a long way in maintaining knowledge and competence in the field of refrigeration. This will ensure that practitioners are able to perform their duties and sign Certificates of Conformity within the requirements of the Montreal Protocol, amendments, the PER and OHS Act.  

About the author

Barney Richardson

Barney Richardson is the director of South African Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Contractors Association (SARACCA) and sits on various other boards within the HVAC industry, including the South African Qualifications and Certifications Committee for Gas (SAQCC) Gas.