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Global qualification programme set to raise the skills bar

The proposed European/US collaboration on a global refrigeration standard, labelled Refrigeration Drivers Licence (RDL), is set to accelerate alternative refrigeration selection and boost skills competence around the world.

The proposed European/US collaboration on a global refrigeration standard, labelled Refrigeration Drivers Licence (RDL), is set to accelerate alternative refrigeration selection and boost skills competence around the world.

That’s the opinion of US-based Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) and European contractors’ association AREA, which was actively involved in the development process of the scheme.

The announcement last month saw AHRI and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) agree to develop a global qualification programme for refrigerant supply chain networks to manage the safe handling of refrigerants.

The RDL is part of the industry-wide focus on training and education and is seen as an important response to the introduction of alternative refrigerants into the marketplace.

Graeme Fox, AREA past president, who was involved in the development of the RDL, said: “While here in Europe and in North America there are standards that are adhered to, albeit not always rigorously enough, there are many areas of the world where standards don’t really exist. This brings serious safety and environmental concerns when these areas begin using alternative gases, especially in retrofits or field repairs.

“The RDL concept is to set a minimum standard of competence for rac technicians working with all refrigerants. It will naturally fall at a lower level than that of our own F- Gas technicians or US NATE-certified technicians, but we at AREA and AHRI believe that, as the standard-bearers and drivers of industry improvement, it is right that we lead from the front in developing and improving the skill levels of everyone working with refrigerant gases.”

The RDL will focus on both developed and developing countries involved with the handling, servicing, and disposal of refrigerants being used in different types of refrigeration and air conditioning applications. The programme aims to build the capacity of the refrigerant supply chain networks in developing countries, with the aim of bringing it to internationally acceptable levels, while also helping to minimise greenhouse gas emissions.

The agreement will support the accelerated global transition to new refrigerants brought on by the Montreal Protocol’s ozone layer protection targets by addressing challenges in safely managing refrigerants. It will also complement existing programmes to upgrade the skills and knowledge of field specialists as new technologies become available.

Francis Dietz, AHRI vice-president of public affairs, said: “AHRI has long advocated for training to ensure the proper handling of refrigerants with a focus on preventing escape into the atmosphere.

“However, new concerns have surfaced regarding alternative refrigerants, including safety, flammability and, of course, global warming potential. In response, AHRI initiated a comprehensive, industry-wide cooperative research programme to identify and evaluate promising alternative refrigerants for major product categories.”

The new agreement with UNEP is expected to take 18 to 24 months to implement, in which time both sides will develop a detailed project proposal with clear objectives for the RDL initiative, including deliverables, budget and timeframe for implementation.

The recent announcement has also been welcomed by ACRIB, who praised the establishment of minimum global engineering standards.

Mike Nankivell, chairman of ACRIB’s F-Gas Implementation Group, said. “In principle, the establishment of minimum engineering standards that can be applied globally, particularly in relation to the safe and responsible use of refrigerants, are to be encouraged.

“It was fairly clear, many months ago that the European Commission expected the F-Gas Regulation to be acknowledged as an exemplar in any negotiations leading to a global agreement on greenhouse emissions reduction. Equally clear is that this would also require a global agreement on minimum qualifications for refrigerant handling – the EC F Gas Regulation can provide an excellent foundation for this.”

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