50% of fridge users risk f-gas legal action
UK: Around half of all end-users operating refrigeration and air conditioning plant could be risking legal action by failing to comply with F-gas legislation, says a leading cooling specialist.
Bristol based Cool-Therm, a company offering consultancy assistance and independent audits of F-gas compliance, says it believes the industry needs to review current approaches to ensure that F-gas requirements are fully met, and clients better informed about their responsibilities. A key element is the need to maintain detailed records on site for activities involving work on all F-gas-containing equipment.
The requirement applies to all systems containing more than 5 tonnes CO2-equivalent of F-gas. Hermetically sealed equipment containing up to 10 tonnes CO2-equivalent is exempt, and there is a grace period for units containing less than 3kg of any F-gas to the end of 2016.
Alex Strong, technical director of Cool-Therm, who heads up the company’s service operation, said: “The F-gas Regulation lays down strict requirements for record keeping, designed to ensure a log is available on site for all operations affecting F-gas plant.
“This has to include a log sheet for every applicable F-gas asset, and record all mandatory leak tests carried out, whether any leaks are identified and if any remedial work is required, with a record of all refrigerant moved in/out of the plant. Importantly, there is a requirement to log all top-ups of F-gas refrigerant made to equipment. Full records should be kept for at least five years.”
The reality, he says, is that on-site F-gas records are at best inconsistent or poorly presented, with no annual summary or management review, and at worst non-existent, providing no documentary evidence of F-gas work, in contravention of the law.
“On site visits and TM44 inspections, I see many examples – perhaps in 50% of cases – where there is no F-gas register with the necessary information for each piece of relevant equipment. In these situations, end users are laying themselves open to legal action. In some cases, there is some form of register or fragmented service record, but the information is incomplete or out-of-date and very difficult to review, meaning equipment owners are not compliant. It is a major issue.”
According to Cool-Therm, the problem is particularly acute on sites attended by different contractors over a period of time, with varying approaches and levels of compliance. The FM provider or contractor may change a number of times over several years, and data lost or subsequently recorded in a different format or physical place.
“The regulations assume there is full continuity, with seamless handovers of record keeping between companies and a minimum continuous record of five years,” explained Alex Strong. “The reality, of course, is this is far from the case, and what ends up on a site that has been looked after by several providers can be fragmentary at best.”
He added: “In this situation, the client – whose responsibility it is to meet many of the F-gas requirements – is exposed if an inspection reveals incomplete or non-existent records. Many equipment owners believe that because they have a maintenance contract with an F-gas registered service company, they are fully covered in terms of F-gas compliance.
“However, the regulation lays down specific responsibilities on equipment owners, for record keeping as well as physical leak checks, and they are legally responsible for meeting them. Responsibility is only passed to the service company if this is agreed as part of the contract. Unless this transfer of responsibilities is explicitly agreed, the default position is – the equipment owner is responsible in law.”
To help end users comply, Cool-Therm has developed a Reg-Gas add-on programme, which keeps track of all F-gas equipment and maintains an up-to-date record of relevant data, ensuring compliance with all mandatory requirements.
It is based on multi asset registers for all relevant F-gas equipment on a site or estate, with an annual summary sheet for each year. This highlights key issues and helps managers understand the impact of their F-gas assets and identify trends so that improvements can be made.