The UK’s principal F-Gas register REFCOM has 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.
When government officials at DEFRA approached the HVCA (now BESA – the Building Engineering Services Association) in 2006 to help it set up a mandatory F-Gas company certification scheme, they calculated there were around 5,000 firms operating in the refrigeration and air conditioning sector who could be in scope of the regulation. While that number has grown, only a small number remain outside the scheme and, therefore, in breach of the legislation.
HVCA members were heavily involved in the scoping and setting up of the refrigerant handling regulations and REFCOM played a key role in shaping the certification framework that now applies to all in-scope UK businesses. It has also been working with the Environment Agency since 2009 to ensure the regulations are properly enforced.
In 2014, the F-Gas Regulation was revised and updated so that it now reflects some of the more ambitious professional standards set out in REFCOM’s voluntary ‘Elite’ scheme, whose members achieve a higher standard ratified by third-party inspection.
As well as being certified safe refrigerant handlers, Elite members are licensed waste carriers and are fully compliant with all current legal requirements. Their procedures are also fully auditable, and they can account for all refrigerant used and recovered.
The success of REFCOM in managing F gases used in heating and cooling equipment was acknowledged in a report from the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) that studied refrigerant management and recycling programmes worldwide. It found that the UK had the highest reported rate of recovery at between 65 and 92% - ahead of other major economies including Australia, Canada, California, the rest of the EU, Japan, China and Brazil.
Last year the consumer champion Which? also announced that only refrigeration and air conditioning contractors who hold a REFCOM certificate would appear on its Trusted Trader list. The endorsement scheme, which has been testing and recognising reputable traders for over 60 years, now uses REFCOM’s assessment process to ensure quality and compliance.
“The professionalism of our industry has come a long way since those HVCA pioneers established the original REFCOM scheme 25 years ago,” said BESA’s head of technical Graeme Fox.
“The sector and its clients owe them a debt of gratitude and we are all tremendously proud to reach this incredible milestone.
“However, the battle is not over. We continue to work closely with the Environment Agency to target rogue operatives who stubbornly remain outside the law. They put the quality of services and products at risk, endanger lives and property, and undermine the UK’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” he added.
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.
For more information go to: www.refcom.org.uk
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