Despite improvement in the number of people who are obtaining training and qualifications to become registered refrigeration gas practitioners, the number of air conditioner installers without an authorised refrigeration gas practitioner registration licence, or with a fraudulent certification, is a threat to the growth of the local heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) industry.
This is according to refrigeration and air conditioning body South African Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Contractors Association (Saracca) director Barney Richardson.
“The Pressure Equipment Regulations, or PER, guidelines require that anybody who works on a gas system be trained and registered with gas practitioners and installers registration authority and database the South African Qualification and Certification Committee of Gas (SAQCC Gas). These include practitioners in the industries of natural, liquefied petroleum and refrigeration gas; compressed industrial and medical gases; and air conditioning.”
With the industry still facing unskilled and unregistered people working on HVAC installations, Richardson says Saracca’s training providers offer substantial and practical training that equips practitioners with the necessary skills for their industry field of specialisation.
“There are many employment opportunities for competent practitioners – but these are only available to trained and certified individuals. Compliance is essential in this industry,” he states.
As was the case last year, SAQCC Gas and Saracca plan to host numerous workshops throughout South Africa this year to educate and register illegal practitioners, which would result in them becoming qualified and skilled contractors.
As one of the four SAQCC Gas member associations, Saracca is tasked with ensuring that prospective HVAC practitioners have been meticulously trained to produce high-quality work before registering with SAQCC Gas.
Another challenge the industry is facing is getting practitioners to renew their licences once they have been registered – this is important, as practitioners need to be informed of the constant development of new technology, practices and regulations within the industry, Richardson points out.
With the emergence of chillers and coolers that use low global warming potential refrigerants, and constant innovation and change in the industry, constantly improving skills levels and knowledge are becoming more important, he adds.
“There are contractors in South Africa who are in the same class as world leaders in promoting and developing this technology. It is, therefore, important for practitioners to have the right skills and competencies for working with these refrigerants.”
Meanwhile, he highlights the efforts of the Department of Higher Education and Training, through skills development providers accreditor Quality Council for Trades & Occupations and qualifications statutory body South African Qualifications Authority, to construct a curriculum for newly defined and updated trades for refrigeration, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics.
With the current phasing out of hydrochlorofluorocarbons in the industry, owing to their contributing to the depletion of the ozone layer and climate change, Richardson states that the Department of Environmental Affairs, according to the Montreal Protocol and the Kigali Amendment, is progressing well in ensuring that this phasing out takes place. The phase-out will soon be extended to include hydrofluorocarbons.
Moreover, with the adoption of hydrocarbon refrigerants, skills and competencies need continuous upgrading because these refrigerants vary from slightly flammable to highly flammable. Refrigeration training providers are aware of this and offer the appropriate training.
In terms of significant goals for Saracca going forward, the association aims to complete SANS 1238, which sets the performance requirements for ductwork manufacturing. The association also hopes to assess, audit and align their training providers on the updated qualifications for refrigeration and air-conditioning trades that will be implemented during 2019, states Richardson.
Saracca is also involved with SAQCC Gas roadshows in South Africa, the first of which will be held in April in Mbombela, Mpumalanga. There are also plans to engage with steel and engineering industry body the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa to review the industry wage categories.