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African explosions send refrigerant warning to the world

A spate of fatal accidents linked to faulty repair work on refrigeration and air conditioning equipment in Nigeria should prompt a swift response from the international community, according to the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA). Seven people died and several more were injured in at least five explosions across the

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REFCOM welcomes £1m penalty for F-Gas offender

The UK’s primary F-Gas register REFCOM has welcomed the Environment Agency’s decision to hammer a company with a fine of more than £1m for breaching the F-gas Regulations. The London-based firm IMO Gas Supplies Ltd was found guilty of seven separate offences all linked to breaches of regulation 31A of

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Major wholesaler joins award winning REFCOM Elite scheme

National wholesaler TF Solutions has become the latest addition to the REFCOM Elite Supplier scheme. Part of the BSS Group, which is a BESA affiliate member, TF Solutions joins just as REFCOM is celebrating receiving the Industry Initiative of the Year award at the ACR News Awards for the scheme.

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BDC 319 : Aug 2024

refcom

African explosions send refrigerant warning to the world

A spate of fatal accidents linked to faulty repair work on refrigeration and air conditioning equipment in Nigeria should prompt a swift response from the international community, according to the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA). Seven people died and several more were injured in at least five explosions across the city of Abeokuta, according to reports in the Cooling Post. As a result, local officials have banned refrigerant sales and shut down the industry’s service and maintenance operations. Initial reports suggest the explosions may have been caused by counterfeit or damaged cylinders, contaminated gas and human error; and the state authorities have issued dire warnings to anyone who ignores the ban. Two engineers were killed while reportedly recharging an air conditioning unit and a young child was among the victims of another incident when a technician was trying to repair a domestic fridge. It is thought that in some cases engineers were putting the wrong gas into the units. BESA’s head of technical Graeme Fox said these reports were probably “the tip of the iceberg” and called for a concerted response from the “worldwide refrigeration and air conditioning community”. Fox, who is a former president of the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration European Association (AREA), was instrumental in setting up an international ‘Refrigerant Driving Licence’ scheme for safe refrigerant handling on behalf of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). EmergingWhen the project launched six years ago, UNEP was growing increasingly concerned about the lack of understanding and training to improve safety in many emerging markets. The idea was that the developed nations would share their expertise with emerging industries to improve safety and professionalism. “These latest reports from Nigeria emphasise just why this scheme is so important. It was delayed because pandemic travel restrictions prevented the experts from training the trainers in each pilot country,” said Fox, who is also head of technical for the UK’s main F-Gas register REFCOM. “It now needs to be restarted without delay. Accidents are happening daily, and it is a miracle we have not had more deaths especially with the growth in use of new alternative gases, many of which are flammable.” The phase-out of HCFCs and ongoing phase down of HFCs has led to the development of alternatives with lower global warming potential – some of which operate at higher pressures and some of which are toxic and/or flammable. Many manufacturers have warned that some are being used as ‘drop-in’ replacements for their equipment when they are not appropriate or safe. “In the UK, we enjoy the support of the long-established refrigerant handling registration scheme REFCOM that has helped to drive up professional standards across our industry. We have a moral duty to share that expertise with other countries – and save lives,” said Fox. He also warned against complacency in the UK and Europe pointing out that there was a recent near miss here when an engineer vented flammable R290 (propane) in a kitchen served by a grease extract system that could easily have ignited and caused severe damage. “The growing amount of flammable gas being used by our industry means we must up our game on competence training – something we are focusing on strongly through the BESA Academy. Getting our own contractor base trained up is clearly a priority, but we should be simultaneously sharing our knowledge with our colleagues around the world. “The demand for refrigeration and air conditioning equipment continues to grow rapidly worldwide and we should be extremely proud of the important role our industry plays in every aspect of modern life. However, greater commercial success also brings greater responsibility,” said Fox.www.refcom.org.uk

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New Joblogic Refcom Software Module Ensures Fast and Accurate F-GAS Compliance

Joblogic and Refcom have collaborated to launch a software module in the UK that ensures F-Gas compliance.  It also makes it simpler and faster for HVAC engineers to comply since they can now input the data directly into a compliant logbook via a mobile app. Legislation demands that an engineer must track and record any movement of refrigerant gas in an official logbook.  There also needs to be a back-office system that shows all the work completed on equipment. Says Greg Hill, Principal Consultant at Joblogic: “While it is possible to record work completed on paper-based systems this can be time consuming and lead to errors when a second person inputs the data into the back-office system. With each piece of equipment and all the cylinders having their own logbooks, it can take time to find all the necessary paperwork, discover what needs completing on an asset, do the work and then fill in each of the logbooks with all the correct information. “Using the Refcom F-Gas Tracking Module, the engineer will know what work they need to do before they arrive to ensure that they have the right tools and equipment to get it right first time.  Having completed the work they simply input the relevant information into the Joblogic Refcom App on their phone or tablet which will then automatically populate the online logbooks and the back-office systems to save time and avoid any errors.” Further time savings are possible if a company decides to use QR codes to identify individual assets within an HVAC system since the engineer can then simply scan the equipment to find out about its service history and the work that needs doing.  This will also automatically find the form for that asset to make it easier and faster to complete and record the job. With each asset in a system having its own logbook, automating the track and trace system will save hours of time so that the engineer can complete more work. Says Graeme Fox, Head of Technical for Refcom: “We wanted a software system that would report data straight into the correct forms to ensure compliance.  We also wanted to make the task simpler and faster for our members and take advantage of all the technology that is available to ensure accurate track and trace, such as for example using QR codes. “It is vital that HVAC engineers are fully compliant with F-Gas legislation and there have been occasions where data has been missed or the logbook has been incorrectly filled in so that a job was not compliant.  This is generally an honest mistake and people may not even realise that they have not met the legislative needs.” All Refcom members will receive a free user licence for the new software module which includes a back-office reporting system, logbooks and the facility to add the mobile app for an engineer.  This allows an organisation to plan and schedule future maintenance work and customise and produce reports in whatever format they want. For a free demonstration of the Joblogic Refcom F-Gas tracking and compliance software visit https://www.joblogic.com/features/fgas-compliance-software/.

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REFCOM welcomes £1m penalty for F-Gas offender

The UK’s primary F-Gas register REFCOM has welcomed the Environment Agency’s decision to hammer a company with a fine of more than £1m for breaching the F-gas Regulations. The London-based firm IMO Gas Supplies Ltd was found guilty of seven separate offences all linked to breaches of regulation 31A of the Fluorinated Greenhouse Gases Regulations over a two-year period. It was given five separate fines of £200,000 each for failing to ensure that the quantity of HFCs it was using did not exceed its f-gas quota. It also received a £10,000 fine for failing to sufficiently report imports of HFCs to the European Commission and a £1,500 penalty for not keeping proper records. The company is reported to have been using refrigerants R134A, R404A, R410A and R407C, which are all subject to restrictions under the F-Gas regulations. “This is precisely the kind of tough action we have been urging from the Environment Agency,” said REFCOM’s head of technical Graeme Fox. “It is the direct result of a tip-off from a REFCOM member who had become exasperated by this kind of irresponsible behaviour that gives the whole sector a bad name. “This is only the second fine issued to an F-Gas offender, but it is a huge statement of intent from the EA. However, we know this is not an isolated incident and the battle goes on against rogue traders who seem bent on flouting this vital environmental law for financial gain.” Frustrated REFCOM said its members had been frustrated by the apparent lack of enforcement of the F-Gas regulations which puts them at a commercial disadvantage because unregistered firms were getting away with not investing in training and the systems needed to keep track of their gas usage. “We have been telling the authorities about the need for visible policing for years and, hopefully, other offenders will take note and mend their ways,” said Fox. “We are delighted to see an example being made of this company and hope this will make others think again about putting the quality of services and products at risk, endangering lives and property, and undermining the UK’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.” REFCOM said it was also closely monitoring the use of illegally imported refrigerant gas in the UK. “The continued use of illegal refrigerants by unscrupulous contractors is a very serious problem,” said Fox. “Not only do they damage the environment and atmosphere but are an extreme danger to life and property. “This is another area where the authorities need to raise their game because there are still far too many ‘cowboy operators’ using illegal products that they buy online,” he said. “REFCOM members are audited to ensure safety and legal compliance so they are rightly sick of being undercut by uncertified firms using dangerous practices and dodgy products.” REFCOM recently recorded its 7,000th company membership, which represents an estimated 90% of the total number of firms operating in the refrigeration and air conditioning sectors. Originally set up in 1996 by a group of contractors who wanted to demonstrate their commitment to high professional standards and responsible refrigerant handling, it became the country’s mandatory register in 2009 when the UK adopted the European F-Gas Regulation. The UK continues to ‘mirror’ the Regulation despite its departure from the EU, which means that all personnel carrying out installation, commissioning, decommissioning, repairing, maintenance, or servicing of stationary refrigeration, air-conditioning or heat pump equipment that contains or is designed to contain F-Gas refrigerants must hold the relevant designated qualifications. REFCOM members receive a range of business benefits alongside meeting their legal obligations. For example, specially designed software to help them manage their projects and track refrigerant usage was made available free of charge two years ago.  The software, which would cost more than the REFCOM registration fee if bought separately, was developed by Joblogic and makes it easier for firms to remain compliant with the regulations. Registered firms also receive listing on the country’s largest F-Gas register, access to insurance services, the use of the REFCOM logo and other support. They also receive discounted training via the BESA Academy including the F-Gas renewal course. “We are making it as easy as possible for firms to be compliant with the law so there really is no excuse for not being registered,” said Fox.www.refcom.org.uk

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Major wholesaler joins award winning REFCOM Elite scheme

National wholesaler TF Solutions has become the latest addition to the REFCOM Elite Supplier scheme. Part of the BSS Group, which is a BESA affiliate member, TF Solutions joins just as REFCOM is celebrating receiving the Industry Initiative of the Year award at the ACR News Awards for the scheme. The refrigeration and air conditioning distributor is the latest supplier to be audited and accredited as an Elite Supplier in line with REFCOM’s ambition to encourage all parts of the supply chain to voluntarily commit to the highest professional standards. REFCOM Elite is a best practice company registration scheme that has been running since 1994 to promote environmentally responsible refrigerant management and compliance with the latest industry legislation. Head of REFCOM Graeme Fox said the Elite Supplier scheme was set up so that responsible suppliers could help ensure that only properly qualified and registered companies were accessing refrigerant gas and equipment in line with the F-Gas Regulation. Unscrupulous “This scheme means suppliers have a way of demonstrating that they have signed up to a voluntary code of conduct that will level the playing field across the supply chain,” said Mr Fox. “This will also free up resources so the enforcing authorities are better able to police and clamp down on irresponsible online or unscrupulous sales to non-registered installers.” He said TF Solutions was a welcome addition to this “exclusive club” who had demonstrated to REFCOM’s independent inspector that they were working to the highest standards. TF Solutions commercial director Andy Reed said his company was happy to be “an early adopter” demonstrating support for the improved professional standards championed by the REFCOM scheme. “TF Solutions has always focused on providing our customers with the best service; so we felt that it was only right that we, as a leading national wholesaler, should participate and uphold the highest values and standards,” he said. “Supporting the F-Gas Regulation will be vital if the industry is to achieve its environmental and climate change goals and REFCOM’s Elite programme is playing a crucial role,” said Mr Reed.

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