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The HVACR industry continues to question licensing arrangements introduced to the Queensland parliament last month under the Plumbing and Drainage Bill 2017.

The Bill was introduced to parliament by the Minister for Housing and Public Works, Mick de Brenni, as part of the Queensland Building Plan.

The legislation, which supports the creation of a mechanical services licence, has led to serious concerns about plumbers
carrying out work that should be undertaken by the refrigeration and air conditioning (RAC) trade.

Under the Bill, RAC technicans fall under plumbing as the industry base which is similar to the licensing model used in Victoria.

It is this emphasis on plumbing which has forced industry groups to question broad sections of the Bill.

As the Airconditioning and Mechanical Contractors Association (AMCA) points out in its submission to government: "AMCA supports the licensing of mechanical services plumbers at an occupational level but they are not qualified to ensure the safe installation, commissioning and decomissioning of refrigerated air conditioning systems."

AMCA said mechanical services is among the most important work undertaken during the course of construction and the size and scale of these systems is vast and complex.

When introducing the Bill to parliament, the Minister focused on the need for licensing to raise standards. He said the new Bill would help ensure Queensland maintains the highest plumbing and gas fitting standards.

“By introducing formal qualifications and licencing requirements for this safety critical work we can better protect Queenslanders from some of the tragedies that have occurred in other parts of the world,” the Minister said.

“The Palaszczuk Government is also improving regulation of mechanical services work in public buildings such as hospitals, shopping centres and apartment blocks to further protect Queenslanders from dangerous conditions such as legionella.”

While the Bill will strengthen plumbing laws, it will not have such a positive impact on the RAC trade. In its submission, the Australian Refrigeration Council (ARC) warned of substandard outcomes.

ARC also questioned the duplication of licensing types and training misalignment with the scope of works of the licence.

The scope of works for the proposed mechanical services licence is already covered by ARCtick, the submission said.

“A plumbing apprenticeship will not deliver the outcomes consistent with the scope of works of the licence. The skill sets are incongruous and are likely to deliver substandard outcomes," ARC warned.

"The proposal represents a fundamental shift from RAC to plumbing in a manner which is inconsistent with how the industry currently operates, resulting in massive likely burden of both indirect and direct costs.”

However,  de Brenni said the new Bill would enable savings for homeowners by streamlining the plumbing approvals process for new homes.

“Faster approvals mean faster construction and under the new laws most homeowners will be able to fast track their applications and obtain a permit to start work in two business days, reduced from the current 20 business days,” he said.

“For Queensland homeowners that could mean a saving of $640 in holding costs, for a $255,000 block, by being able to get going more than two weeks earlier.

“No longer will the wait for a plumbing approval hold up the construction of a new home.”

The Plumbing and Drainage Bill 2017 is the third major Bill introduced in a suite of reforms under the Queensland Building Plan .

One of the strongest submissions submitted to the Queensland government on the impact of the Bill came from the Australian Refrigeration Mechanics Association (ARMA) which pointed out that only one of the classes covered under the mechanical services licence deals with HVACR, everything else covers plumbing competencies.

It points out that plumbers should not be undertaking work that takes a technician working in HVACR four years to attain.

“The scope of work associated within the mechanical services licence should only be undertaken by a fully qualified HVACR tradesperson who has undertaken a full four year apprenticeship,” ARMA said.

“The parameters currently within the mechanical services Victorian licensing model is fundamentally flawed since the inclusion of Cert II and ARCtick has allowed plumbers to work outside their scope purely from a tick on the back of a licence card.

"Safety and the environment rely on governments acknowledging HVACR as a specialised trade and must ensure only technically competent HVACR tradespeople undertake this scope of work.”

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