By John Ackermann
Most people are aware of the legal requirements of driving a vehicle on a public road. The vehicle has to be roadworthy.
To be roadworthy, the vehicle must comply with the technical requirements as set forth in the road traffic act. The roadworthy test is to be done by an approved and authorised test facility. The driver of the vehicle requires a license acquired by passing a regulated test at an authorised test station. The mentioned legal requirements are in place to safeguard the safety of all users of public roads, public road transport and passengers of road vehicles.
For similar reasons, all closed pressurised circuits (operating above 50kpa) of refrigeration and air conditioning systems, have to comply with the requirements of the Pressure Equipment Regulations (PER), which were first promulgated on 15 July 2009. The systems are to meet the requirements of the national standard, SANS10147, which details the minimum requirements for a system to be safe and not cause harm to those that operate the system or cause harm to persons near the system, or cause damage to surrounding property and minimise the overall environmental impact of the system.
Before a new system is commissioned – and this does not only apply to industrial ammonia systems but also those charged with synthetic refrigerants, for example, R404A, R507 etc. – an authorised person is to certify that the system conforms with the requirements of SANS10147 and the pressure testing, charging with refrigerant and the commissioning is done in accordance with SANS10147.
The authorised person is to be registered with SAQCC Gas as being competent to certify the plant. The CoC is a single page document stating the type of plant (blast freezer, medium temp cold store, supermarket multiplex unit, chill water a/c system etc), the kW of refrigeration, the type of refrigerant and mass of the refrigerant charge. A copy of the mentioned CoC is sent to SAQCC Gas for recording, a copy is kept by the contractor and a copy is handed to the plant operator for inclusion in the manual with all the required regulatory documentation which is held on site for later inspection by members of the Department of Labour, risk assessors or incidence investigators.
The CoC has recently been changed to a digital format but the registration process by SAQCCG Gas remains the same.
The enforcement of the issuance of a CoC for every A/C & R plant in accordance with the PER (which includes SANS10147) will not only enforce safety in accordance with the OSH Act but also provide valuable statistical data of the number of A/C & R plants in South Africa, the amount of the different available refrigerants installed, the geographical density of plants, the annual growth rate and an indication of the energy consumed by A/C & R plants.
Knowing the mass of the refrigerants installed will be an invaluable guide in formulating a phase down plan in accordance with the Kigali amendment. How much of the different synthetic refrigerants will need to be destroyed at the end of their useful life? What will be the impact if R404A is no longer available as an import? What is the potential of converting synthetic refrigerant plants to low GWP or natural refrigerants?
If the issuance of CoCs is a legal requirement and can provide such valuable statistical data, why is compliance at such a low level? There are many reasons. A strong enforcement and lack of competent persons with the technical knowledge of the codes, for example, SANS10147. These are the main reasons. Regular checks by competent inspectors of the Department of Labour could partially solve the problem.
Many plant operators are also unaware of the costly consequences of not having a plant certified at the time of commissioning. In the event of a subsequent plant failure or accident due to improper plant operation and any person being harmed, there will undoubtedly be an investigation by the Department of Labour. At such investigations, if no CoC is available the consequences are costly and could even result in a prison sentence. The plant will also be shut down immediately.
Risk assurers play a very positive role in the enforcement of plant compliance with the regulatory technical standards and safety requirements. Without a CoC as a minimum requirement, risk cover will be difficult to secure. All A/C & R plant beyond the domestic domain, in a retail outlet, office block, processing plant, cold store, distribution centre, hospital, abattoir, etc., can cause damage and bodily harm if not designed, assembled, and operated in compliance with the standards. Accidents have no boundaries in time or place and prevention is less costly than the high cost of an untimely plant rupture due to negligence.
The plant operators and contractors who are committed to compliance with the legal requirements of CoCs are commended for their role in uplifting standards in the A/C & R industry and in doing so bring recognition as an accountable industry and a specialised trade/profession. Being leaders will always be far greater than those that will try to duck the system.
The value of statistical data that SAQCC Gas can provide, cannot be overstated and needs to gain traction for the benefit of the entire industry.
About John Ackermann
John Ackermann published the first Cold Link newspaper in September 1987 as a trade newspaper for the refrigeration industry, and continues as a consultant to Cold Link Africa to this day. He was the founding president of Southern African Refrigerated Distribution Association (SARDA). He owns and manages Jack Agencies in Cape Town, which imports and distributes components for ammonia/industrial refrigeration systems.