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Refrigeration Practitioner registration – 04

By Barney Richardson

Interpretation of the Pressure Equipment Regulations (PER) can occasionally instill doubt about where a technician actually fits into the requirements.

For instance, within the definitions section of the regulations an ‘authorised person’ is defined as one who is registered, but it also refers to an ‘authorised refrigeration gas practitioner’ by SAQCC Gas. There are two important categories which define where a person can be registered. The first is the semi-skilled air conditioning unit installer who is registered as competent within the scope of air conditioning installation and maintenance as a Category ‘A’. This is also including the repair mechanic working on domestic refrigerators and small refrigeration units like ice makers and water dispensing units.

These are mostly refrigeration systems with a capacity of less than 20kW cooling capacity. The category A practitioner is classed as semi-skilled by not having passed a trade test. A category A practitioner is also an apprentice or learner in training and working toward a trade test but not yet qualified. The Category ‘B’ practitioner refers to a skilled person with a trade test as an artisan in air conditioning and refrigeration and who is generally working on larger systems above 20kW cooling capacity. These mechanics have passed a trade test as either refrigeration mechanics or electricians.

These air conditioning and refrigeration gas practitioners are authorised to work on a variety of refrigeration systems. Specifically, the practitioner registered for air conditioning and refrigeration as a category B is authorised to work on systems using one of the so-called F gases. This will include the refrigerant gases now being used on domestic refrigerators such as R600 and R290. In this category are included refrigeration gas practitioners working with carbon dioxide (CO2) where experience has been gained in the safe working with this gas and the necessary training has been completed and assessed.

Barney Richardson

Barney Richardson is the director of South African Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Contractors Association (SARACCA) and sits on various other boards within the HVAC industry, including the South African Qualifications and Certifications Committee for Gas (SAQCC) Gas.

The category B practitioners are also registered for work on ammonia refrigeration plants and identified on their registration card as such. Many of the authorised practitioners working on ammonia plants have artisan training in other trades besides refrigeration mechanic or electrician such as fitting and turning and as millwrights and have completed the safe handling of ammonia training. Refrigeration mechanics are also registered in category B for transport refrigeration, car and vehicle and bus air conditioning. Marine refrigeration registration may involve the F gases, CO2 and ammonia resulting in a highly multi-skilled person who has knowledge in the application and use of these gases.

The authorised person referred to above and in the PER is a refrigeration gas practitioner who is registered through SARACCA, and for which SAQCC Gas has issued a registration card as mandated by the chief inspector of the Department of Employment and Labour to register that person. Users of refrigeration and air conditioning have a responsibility in terms of the PER to ensure that the plant and equipment is used within design and operating parameters. The user must also ensure the correct information is provided to the installer or service and maintenance mech593593anic working on the plant.

The user shall ensure refrigeration plant and equipment has a certificate issued by the repairer or service mechanic, including a verification signature by an approved inspection authority when required, which certifies that the equipment has been serviced modified or repaired in accordance with the relevant health and safety standard incorporated into these Regulations under section 44 of the Act.