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Refrigerant licence steers a safe course

FRANCE: Faced with a global move towards flammable refrigerants, a qualification programme will help governments ensure that refrigeration and air conditioning engineers have the appropriate skills.

The new Refrigerant Driving License (RDL) is meant to complement, rather than replace, existing national technician qualification schemes. It also offers a ready-made and structured framework for countries that currently do not yet have a national technician certification programme, but wish to start assessing the skill levels of their RAC workforce.

It takes to the road after nearly 10 years in its formulation by UNEP OzonAction, the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) and a coalition of partner organisations.

Global acceptance is said to be one of the key benefits of the RDL. A team of international experts guide the effort. An Advisory Committee consisting of representatives of the leading HVACR associations provide global acceptance.

The RDL is a turnkey qualification programme consisting of two exams covering small RAC applications. An online exam conducted by AHRI tests knowledge of skills and tasks. A proctored practical exam conducted by the European contractors group AREA tests candidates’ hands-on performance. Technicians receiving passing scores on both exams receive a personalised RDL certificate and wallet card.

“Training is incomplete without the next step that verifies knowledge and skills have been acquired,” said Jim Curlin, head of UNEP OzonAction. “The issue of certification has been highlighted as a critical need by the Multilateral Fund’s executive committee, the Refrigeration Technical Options Committee reports, the Open-Ended Working Group and Meeting of the Parties discussions. The RDL has been funded by the Multilateral Fund through OzonAction’s compliance assistance programme.”

Topics covered in the exams are types of refrigerants, tools, fabricating copper tubing, evacuation and charging, refrigerant circuit tools, recovery/recycling/recycling machines, brazing, and safety.

“In the world of next-generation refrigerants, which include flammable gases, every single technician should be trained on best and safe practices, and each one of those who have been trained should be confirmed to have acquired the necessary knowledge and skills,” Curlin said.

The RDL has a number of key objectives. In helping countries develop a qualified HVACR workforce, the initiative seeks to reduce safety incidents, protect technicians, end users, and the public, while preventing unintentional refrigerant releases that deplete the ozone layer and contribute to climate change. In doing so, it is also designed to ensure better equipment performance and reduce costs due to improved energy efficiency and provides engineers with the competencies to support completion of the HCFC phase-out and start a safe HFC phase-down.

While the RDL provides the structured practical and theoretical assessment process, it does not provide the training in best and safe practices. According to UNEP, that training should be sought from other sources, including training provided by UNEP, other Implementing agencies, bilateral agencies or the private sector. Technicians taking the RDL exams should therefore be adequately trained or experienced, especially in the proper handling of flammable refrigerants, prior to taking the tests.

In its initial phase, the RDL is offered specifically to National Ozone Units (NOU) so that they can include it as part of their phase-out and phase-down projects proposals under the Multilateral Fund.

The deadline for NOUs to express interest in setting up the RDL programme in their countries is 30 April 2024. NOUs should consult the new RDL website for more information and contact details. 

Related stories:

Refrigerant driving licence will save many lives5 July 2023
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. Read more…

No flammable refrigerants without training – 4 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 road – 28 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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