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Refrigerant driving licence will save many lives

Graeme Fox (left) and Madi Sakandé, president of U-3ARC (5th from left) with other contributors to the Refrigerant Driving Licence at this week’s launch meeting in Bangkok

BANGKOK: The Refrigerant Driving Licence, a scheme to achieve higher worldwide competence standards in safe refrigerant handling, has finally been launched at this week’s Montreal Protocol meeting in Bangkok.

Originally conceived over a decade ago, the Refrigerant Driving Licence seeks to help developing nations achieve higher competence standards in safe refrigerant handling through training and accreditation of operatives.

Graeme Fox, president of the UK’s Institute of Refrigeration and a founder and driving-force behind the scheme, hailed the launch of the licence as a “significant development for the worldwide refrigerant industry that will save many lives”.

Fox, who is also head of technical at BESA, which operates the UK’s primary refrigerant management registration scheme REFCOM, said the timing was significant because of the rapid growth in the use of new alternative refrigerant gases, which are more flammable and require users to have more stringent safety training.

“A lot of countries do not enjoy the training and technical infrastructure we take for granted in Europe and the rest of the developed world,” he said. “Many of those countries still want to progress and adopt more environmentally friendly refrigerants. However, the speed of the transition to new gases is causing some very serious safety issues and there have already been several deaths caused by the mishandling of these substances.”

With the EU currently debating a further strengthening of the F-gas regulations, the African industry is concerned that it is being used as a ‘guinea pig’ to test refrigerant transition. U-3ARC, which represents all 54 African states, called for a halt to their introduction until technicians were properly trained. 

“This preliminary training must be accompanied by a vast awareness campaign among end users of these technologies which can cause disasters for humans, in terms of fires, even if they are beneficial for the environment,” the organisation said in an open letter.

It said the risks were “enormous” and that “the protection of the environment only makes sense if the human being, who is at its centre, benefits from it”.

Fox urged the industry to share its expertise and resources to upskill the global workforce. He also asked regulators to be patient as efforts were stepped up to raise standards.

“European legislators deserve praise for seeking to set the pace on reducing global warming, but changes need to be proportionate and practical,” he said. “We must be mindful that one of the consequences of limiting the use of conventional refrigerants is that many developing nations with minimal expertise end up handling large amounts of flammable gas.

“The RDL will, given time, immeasurably improve professional standards worldwide and allow for the gradual and safe adoption of more environmentally benign substances.”

Related stories:

No flammable refrigerants without training4 April 2023
BURKINA FASO: Companies in Africa have called for a halt to the introduction of flammable refrigerants and equipment until its technicians are appropriately trained. Read more…

Refrigerant driving license takes to the road28 June 2019
USA: The first round of training sessions for the Refrigerant Driving License (RDL), a global refrigerant management initiative, have been completed in Kigali, Rwanda. Read more…

Plans to develop “refrigerant driving license” – 29 July 2015
USA: The AHRI has met with UNEP to develop a global qualification programme for refrigerant supply chain networks. Read more…

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