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REFCOM seeks relaxation of F-gas renewal rules

UK: Certification body REFCOM is in discussions with DEFRA in an effort to relax the F-gas certification renewal rules during the coronavirus crisis.

REFCOM is seeking a resolution to the problem of engineers whose CITB J11 certificates have come up for renewal while the training centres have closed down amid the coronavirus lockdown. This is thought to affect several thousand qualified engineers in the UK.

A relaxation of the rules is being sought for a temporary period of time as has already happened in some other European countries. In Norway, for example, the deadline for renewal of F-gas certificates certificates has been postponed until September 1.

“We as certifying bodies are regulated by an implementing regulation which is 2067/2015,” head of REFCOM Graeme Fox explained at last week’s RAC Question Time. “That says that we can only issue company certificates to companies who directly employ properly certified engineers. But also, the F-gas regulations stipulate that only properly certified engineers can carry out any installation servicing, maintenance, repairs, decommissioning of any in-scope equipment. 

“Company F-gas certificates in the UK are issued for a three-year period. They’ve been on a cycle since, effectively, 2009. And it’s three year cycle means that a great many number of companies tickets are actually expiring this year, because we’re on one of those three year cycles,” Fox said.

“For us, if your engineers that you employ don’t hold valid qualifications, then strictly speaking, we can’t allow them to be registered on our database that we hold on your company to allow your company to be registered as an F-gas registered business. And, of course, that’s the very licence that allows you to actually trade.”

“The best we can hope for from DEFRA is an acknowledgement that we can use discretion in applying the rules under the current crisis,” said Fox. 

Online training

Looking ahead, REFCOM has been working with some training bodies to develop the materials to carry out remote online renewals. It’s something that has been successfully trialled in Italy already.

“I am hoping the online training can be up and running within a couple of weeks – to help us get the industry going again,” Fox told the Cooling Post.

“Going beyond the current crisis with a bigger picture in mind, it could be a bit of a game changer for the sector if it could be rolled out longer term.

“We’ve literally got thousands of engineers all around the UK, who have to travel sometimes hundreds of miles, overnight stay at hotels, etc, to attend one-day training courses. Now, the cost to industry for that is obviously enormous. So some of those engineers can in future be trained remotely, and even how beneficial would that be to them to their employers and to the environment in the longer run?”

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