FoxUSA: The European contractors’ association AREA has repeated its calls for minimum requirements for training and certification of contractors handling low GWP refrigerants.

Speaking at the first global symposium  for the entire supply chain on refrigerant training & education hosted by the AHRI alongside last week’s AHR Expo in New York,  AREA president Graeme Fox (right) emphasised the association’s concerns that a move away from high GWP HFCs will inevitably bring contractors into contact with flammable and/or toxic refrigerants – many for the first time.

Against the background of measures to decrease the use of HFCs under the F-gas regulation revisions, Graeme Fox said “If the use of HFCs is legislatively decreased and consequently the use of natural refrigerants is pushed, there will be a gap between training offered and training needs resulting in a shortage of suitably trained contractors.

“Such measures will, in turn, result in an increased use of alternatives, namely low GWP refrigerants, and, in particular, the so-called “natural refrigerants” CO2, hydrocarbons and ammonia.”

Under the F-gas revision it is proposed that by 2017, ‘the Commission shall publish a report examining EU legislation with respect to the training of natural persons for the safe handling of alternative refrigerants….and shall submit, if appropriate, a legislative proposal to the European Parliament and to the Council to amend relevant EU legislation.’

A recent survey by AREA into contractors’ use of “natural” refrigerants across Europe revealed that, on average, only 6% were trained in the use of CO2, 11% in hydrocarbons and just 12% in ammonia. Of the countries surveyed, the best performing were Poland, the Netherlands and Denmark.

As a starting point, AREA recommends that the F-Gas certification of personnel should include modules for natural refrigerants

“It is not AREA’s intention to create a new certification scheme,” Graeme Fox explained, “Only to add specific modules to the existing HFCs certification scheme based on Regulation 303/2008. While HFC certification will be the basis for every contractor who wants to handle every refrigerant, each added module will focus on the specificities of the respective low GWP refrigerants.”