Technician training and certification

A crucial aspect of the F-Gas regulation is that those personnel involved in operations that could affect the emissions of HFC refrigerants into the atmosphere are properly qualified.

The types of technician task that affect the emissions of gases include:

  • Carrying out leak tests.
  • Repairing leaks.
  • Recovering refrigerant from a system.
  • Adding refrigerant to a system.
  • Building or installing a new system.
  • General system maintenance involving the refrigeration circuit of an existing system.
  • Decommissioning of an old system.

The Regulation states that by July 2007 the minimum requirements for training and certification systems shall be established by the Commission in conjunction with representatives of the Member States.

The Regulation then requires that by July 2008 Member States shall establish or adapt their own training and certification requirements on the basis of these minimum requirements.

At this time (July 2007) there is still some confusion about the minimum requirements. For refrigeration and air-conditioning systems it is likely that the Commission will specify three different sets of minimum requirements that will cover:

  • Training and certification for leak testing only.
  • Training and certification for refrigerant handling operations on very small systems such as domestic refrigerators and car air-conditioning.
  • A more general "full" training and certification programme that will cover all aspects of refrigerant handling for both large and small systems.

Two very important steps need to be completed before the training requirements can be fully implemented. Firstly, the Commission and Member States need to agree the format of the minimum requirements. This is likely to take place during the summer of 2007. In many cases Member States may find that these minimum requirements go beyond the training and certification that is already available in their country. If this is the case then the Commission will need to allow a period during which new training programmes can be developed and large numbers of technicians can be retrained and certified.

This is likely to be a time-consuming process that is unlikely to be completed for three or four years. Of necessity, the Commission will need to allow a transition period between the use of existing qualifications (that do not meet the minimum qualifications) and the new comprehensive training and certification.

In some countries this may not be a problem. For example, in the Netherlands the existing training requirements under the STEK programme are likely to meet the new minimum requirements.

However in some countries, such as the UK, there could be a severe problem. The existing training regime that is specified in the Ozone Regulation is widely used by many thousands of UK-based refrigeration technicians. This training regime will be accepted by the UK Government as reasonable proof of adequate training during the transition period.

A new more rigorous training regime will then be introduced and all technicians will need to obtain the new qualification by the end of the transition period.

Clearly this is a confusing and unsatisfactory situation. The Figaroo website will provide regular updates on the status of the general specification of Europe-wide minimum requirements and the implementation of these requirements in different Member States.