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Refrigeration Practitioner registration – 85

By Barney Richardson

The South African Bureau of Standards codes of practice and National Standards that covers the legal requirement to be registered as an ‘authorised refrigeration gas practitioner’ is SANS 10147 – Refrigerating systems, including plants associated with air conditioning systems.

Barney Richardson

Barney Richardson

Image supplied by SARACCA

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.

This standard carries with it the responsibility to work in a safe and responsible manner, as well as doing an installation within the design requirements, and in accordance with the above standard. This covers all of the essentials of how a refrigeration system should be designed, installed and commissioned.

Importance also lies with the competence of the person doing the work. This is why SAQCC Gas and SARACCA have consequently set minimum training standards for assessing the skilled competence of the installer. The handling of the actual refrigerant is of utmost importance, alongside a knowledge of the regulations and different refrigerants.

Therefore, the competence assessment for registration covers the theory and practical requirement of Unit Standard 116700 for the F gases and Unit Standard 116704 for ammonia. Any candidate is required to demonstrate evacuation to a set vacuum level, pressure testing of the system, charging with the correct mass of refrigerant and then to test the operation of the plant. The basic principle applies to large built-up refrigeration systems as much as it does to small room air-conditioning units.

Many will be confused by the two of levels of registration specified on the application form: Categories A and B.

  • Refrigeration plant operator: applies to those who monitor and care for refrigeration plants, usually the large cold store type refrigeration plants. This is a semi-skilled person who reports to a supervisor or foreman.
  • Semi-skilled air conditioning and refrigeration installers: these are those who are carrying out the installation of small split room air-conditioning units and small refrigeration installations under supervision. The installer is also one who has had training from an air conditioning supplier in the specific requirements of a make of units, in addition to the Unit Standard assessment.
  • Air conditioning and refrigeration apprentice or learner: those mechanics who are in training towards a trade test. After passing a trade test the mechanic may be upgraded to category B.

Category B consists of a skilled person who has passed a trade test. Registered practitioners are those mechanics who have a trade qualification and several years of experience in the industry on the F gas refrigerants. The vast majority of refrigeration mechanics working on air conditioning and commercial refrigeration systems fall into this category.

Also in category B are Ammonia Refrigeration Practitioners working in cold storage process cooling refrigeration using ammonia. They are registered artisans, or by experience have been assessed as competent, after ammonia refrigeration training in all aspects of plant safety and incident response.

All motor vehicle air conditioning (cars, buses, vehicle cabs, etc.) is also covered by category B. Those who register here are qualified motor mechanics, auto electricians or diesel mechanics who have completed the vehicle air-conditioning training.

Mechanics working in the cold chain refrigerated transport sector also fall into this category with their specialised knowledge of transport refrigeration equipment.

The Category B Marine Refrigeration Practitioner works on fishing boats and ships such as reefers and refrigerated container carriers, is covered in this category. This part of the industry and registration covers qualification in both F gases and ammonia. Category C is reserved for those who can by experience and qualification be inspectors and designers, which will be discussed at another time.