Keeping track of the legal requirements for installers' qualifications can be complicated, but it is essential. Perhaps the solution lies in a single skill-card for all, says Miriam Rodway.
New regulations are leading to greater demand for qualifications in the heat pump and air conditioning industry to guarantee technicians are capable of completing jobs that meet the new legal obligations. As a result, training requirements are becoming more complicated.
Keeping up with these legal requirements and ensuring all installers hold the necessary qualifications is a challenge for suppliers of air conditioning products and services and a potential source of confusion for site owners and operators who need to know their contracted air conditioning technicians are suitably qualified and not breaking the law.
The industry's customers are pushing for these higher standards, wishing to use only those technicians with the experience and skills to keep everyone on the right track. The problem is how do busy employers keep track of all the refrigerants a technician is qualified to work with? And what about the technician's training in Health and Safety standards (related to their application and environment), so crucial to preventing costly accidents at work?
How does the busy end user know what qualifications he should be looking for and what guarantee does he have that the technician before him is going to keep them within the legal requirements?
Where training leads to recognised qualifications, it can now be confirmed by the installer or technician holding one wallet-sized skill card. This makes life easier for employers, is reassuring for end users, and makes the cardholder more employable.
In May, the 20-year-old ACRIB card united with SKILLcard to launch the new ACRIB SKILLcard, combining the environmental benefits of the ACRIB scheme with the health and safety benefits of the widely recognised Engineering Services SKILLcard scheme. The card's growing popularity is proof that there was a need for simplification within the industry; for a single, recognised, reliable and universally accepted ACRIB
One employer who is realising the benefits of the scheme is Paul Mills, compliance director at Carter Synergy, who is actively ensuring that all his employees hold an ACRIB SKILLcard.
Supporter of the ACRIB card
Mr Mills said: 'Carter Synergy Ltd has been a supporter of the ACRIB card for many years and we applaud this latest initiative. This new card is effectively an engineer's single passport to access many clients and construction sites, to complete their day-to-day work without the likely event of having to complete additional administration and H&S inductions each time. It saves engineers non-productive time and is therefore beneficial to the individual and the company.
'Many times throughout a year the company is completing pre-qualification tender administration and H&S accreditation paperwork demanding details of skills and health & safety knowledge.
The ACRIB SKILLcard for each of our engineers helps us to demonstrate that we professionally meet these requirements.
Plus, we know, if necessary, we can point any auditing body towards the register to check any details. The fact that the engineers can show the cards is often good enough.
'Wherever the work is, it is vital that engineers can show evidence that they have completed H&S training. This, allied to reflecting their qualification level, is a win-win all round, for the engineer, the company and the clients.'
For installers, the card provides a quick, easy and affordable way of proving to employers their training and competency in the handling of different refrigerants and the required level of health and safety knowledge and practice. For employers, the workforce's possession of an ACRIB SKILLcard confirms the company's professionalism and commitment to high standards.
For equipment owners and operators, a single card guarantees the installer's or technician's reliability, experience and qualifications, and proves that the technician holds the most up-to-date requirements. All of this without the need for time-consuming or inconvenient verifications on site.
The ACRIB SKILLcard streamlines the industry's training requirements for all, from technicians to site owners. In fact, some customers may insist on it.
Full details about the card scheme and application forms can be found at www.skillcard.org.uk
• Miriam Rodway is ACRIB Secretary