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New qualification created for domestic refrigeration engineers

Amica, Liebherr and the Whitegoods Trade Association are lending support and financial sponsorship to the process of creating A Qualification Route for Domestic Refrigeration Service Engineers.

Since its inception, the Whitegoods Trade Association has been concerned by the lack of formal qualification in the domestic refrigeration market.  With this in mind the WTA approached  Lynton Perry, a City & Guilds assessor, with a view to making a nationally recognized qualification available to those working within this industry.  With the support of both Amica & Liebherr, the idea has now become reality.

Lynton Perry, the engineer author of the proposed qualification explains: "The Refrigeration Industry, in general, has failed to recognise the role of the domestic refrigeration service engineer within the qualification structures previously available from a number of awarding bodies. As such no awards were available to provide a nationally recognised qualification for this group of engineers."

Through the efforts of Lynton Perry, Amica, Liebherr and the White Goods Trade Association, a plan has been developed with the goal of providing all domestic refrigeration service engineers with nationally recognised qualifications.  This will be unveiled to a group of 300 domestic white-good engineers at the annual White Goods Trade Association conference on 24th February, in Coventry. Whitegoods engineers across the country are invited to attend the event, which is taking place at the Hilton Hotel. 

"It is recognised that domestic refrigeration service engineers work mainly with the hydrocarbon group of refrigerants (namely R600a) and, depending on their field of work, HFC 134a," continues Lynton. "R600a is an explosive and highly flammable refrigerant and is found in most domestic refrigerators and freezers manufactured in the past 10 years.  HFC R134a is found in older domestic refrigerators as well as the current range of American style units, in semi commercial glass and bottle cabinets and ice makers."

A nationally recognised qualification route for this group of engineers is seen as vital from both a commercial perspective and from one of safety and environment.  Manufacturers will end up with better qualified engineers servicing and maintaining their equipment. This will result in fewer returns, fewer spares being used and equipment having a better chance of being repaired rather than scrapped. This in turn reduces the carbon footprint in terms of transport and scrapping of the equipment and also reduces landfill quantities as well the potential WEEE obligations.

Liebherr's Managing director Mark Bristow, says: "This qualification is a win, win for consumers; it will improve  customer service and ensure more appliances are repaired  in the field, saving, time, energy and resources.  Equally important for the industry as a whole is an acknowledged qualification that will encourage engineers to view their trade as a long-term career as valued, specialised and accredited professionals."

But Lynton has further concerns with the current situation, saying: "The issues of untrained or partly trained domestic refrigeration service engineers working in a domestic environment using R600a (flammable and explosive) should cause unease. Similarly, domestic refrigeration service engineers breaking into systems operating with HFC 134a and who do not hold a recognised 'F Gas' qualification (awarded by City and Guilds or Construction Skills) are breaking the law with the risk of  large penalties should they be caught. 

Progress to Date

The author has been a member of a team who are working to moderate the new City and Guilds 6187 Refrigeration and Air Conditioning qualification. Within this new award there are a number of (Continuous Professional Development) CPD modules covering a significant range of refrigeration and air condition skills. One of these modules is based entirely on the use of hydrocarbon refrigerants and has been designed to incorporate all sizes of hydrocarbon based equipment including domestic refrigeration. To achieve this CPD unit certificate, candidates will be required to undertake a practical, workshop-based assignment, as well as take an on-line multi choice examination at any approved City and Guilds training centre. 

Although this new 6187 Unit 232 CPD award provides the necessary knowledge and skills for a refrigeration engineer to work with hydrocarbon based refrigerants, it assumes a good pre-existing knowledge of refrigeration. It would be pointless for any engineer to attempt this CPD certificate without good basic refrigeration knowledge.

Given the above limitation with the CPD unit it was decided and agreed that an introductory route to domestic refrigeration including basic refrigeration studies but encompassing all aspects of the F Gas regulations at a theoretical and practical level should be sought. Furthermore it was agreed we should seek to have the F Gas theoretical and practical work recognised as a national award as it currently is with the commercial refrigeration and air conditioning sector.  Currently we are in discussions with both City and Guilds and DEFRA in finding a way forward to ensure an F Gas award specific to the domestic refrigeration sector is made available. It is envisaged this will take some time to achieve as it is both a regulatory and qualification route to be approved.

In the meantime an introductory basic refrigeration course, including the requirements of F Gas pertaining to HFC 134a has been designed to allow domestic refrigeration engineers to undertake the new City and Guilds CPD Unit 232 with confidence.

 Back Ground on the Author

Lynton Perry (Refrigeration Matters) has been working in the refrigeration, education and training industries for 38 years. He has worked within the Refrigeration Department related disciplines at Grimsby Institute of Further and Higher Education for 21 years. The past year he has been developing an education and training consultancy working with a number of companies in the UK and abroad.

E: [email protected]

W: www.whitegoodstradeassociation.org 

17th February 2012

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