F-gas regulations — meet to compete
Compliance with F-Gas regulations opens the door to new business, says Mike Jenkins.
With the UK still slowly picking itself up and dusting itself down following the recession, it is more important than ever for HVACR businesses not to run the risk of losing out on contracts or being hit by a hefty fine for non-compliance with regulations.
A good example of the need for compliance affecting many businesses in our industry is F-gas certification. If your business should have an F-gas company certificate but is trading without one, you are risking prosecution and could well be losing out on valuable contracts.
For companies directly handling refrigerants, a voluntary registration scheme was set up as long ago as 1994 by HVCA group company Refcom, recently renamed Refcom Elite. In the last 16 years, Refcom has earned full industry backing and support. In a consultation with the hvacr industry in 2008, 65 out of 67 respondents recommended Refcom to act as the mandatory certification body for F-gas.
Refcom states: ‘Best practice in refrigerant handling means working to industry codes of practice and in compliance with all current legislation to ensure containment of refrigerant of any type. Work activities covered include installation, commissioning, servicing, maintenance, leak checking and decommissioning on any kind of stationary refrigeration, air conditioning or heat pump equipment.’
Since July 2009, any company that installs, maintains or services stationary refrigeration, air-conditioning or heat-pump equipment that contains, or is designed to contain, F-gas refrigerants must either possess an interim or full company certificate from an appointed body. The consequences of non-compliance range from enforcement and prohibition notices and a fine of £5000, to prosecution in the Crown Court, which has the power to impose unlimited fines upon conviction.
To help engineers through the changes, the Government set up F-gas Support, which offers guidance on both F-gas and ozone regulations. F-gas Support provides a summary of key obligations for companies working with such refrigerants, making it clear where the responsibility for meeting these obligations lies.
Since Refcom’s appointment by Defra in 2009 as a certification body, it has processed more than 4000 company applications — but there are many more who have yet to comply, and the July 2011 deadline for full certification is fast approaching.
Confirming the importance of this issue, the CIBSE Non Compliance Costs campaign was launched in April this year to highlight not just the legal issues surrounding F-gas but also the environmental and business costs. CIBSE, like Refcom, recognises that the benefits of compliance need to be more widely promoted.
Businesses need to comply to help the UK to meet carbon emissions targets, and would be more likely to comply if they were aware of the commercial benefits. Customers are increasingly relying on company certification as the starting point for selecting contractors, meaning those without certification are losing out.
Another benefit of having certified engineers is their ability to pass on vital information to end-users. It is not just the HVACR industry that needs to be aware of the dangers of non-compliance, it is also important that consumers understand not only the ban on using virgin HCFCs but also the latest record-keeping and leak-checking obligations and the shocking environmental impact leaking gases can have. Our industry’s aim should be to get end-users automatically looking towards F-gas certified engineers to carry out any necessary work.
Instead of seeing F-gas obligations as an additional burden of money and time, the industry should seize this opportunity and push the message of compliance forward to everyone involved in the chain. Although legal enforcement of compliance lies with the Government, the HVACR industry as a whole has a responsibility to itself and consumers to create a culture of conformity and unity, for both environmental and commercial reasons.
Mike Jenkins is business development manager of Welplan and group co-ordinator of HVCA Business Plus, which brings together the HVCA group of companies, including Refcom.