The Australian HVACR industry’s transition to low-GWP refrigerants is being hampered by the current licensing regime, according to a position paper released by the Australian Institute of Refrigeration, Airconditioning and Heating (AIRAH).
Led by its Refrigeration Special Technical Group, AIRAH released a position statement last week on HVACR licensing in Australia, and is seeking input from industry stakeholders until April 30, 2020.
The paper states tthe industry is hampered by “the lack of a comprehensive licensing and enforcement scheme that covers the skills required of mechanics involved in the installation, operation and maintenance of RAC systems.”
AIRAH CEO, Tony Gleeson, said that although there are well-established and successful licensing regimes in place – most notably the national ARCtick licence scheme – there is room for improvement.
“There are undoubtedly opportunities to enhance licensing for HVACR technicians,” Gleeson said.
“We support a nationally harmonised approach to licensing that covers all refrigerants, based on minimum standards of competency and sector of operation. It should also include a separate contractor or business licence if required.
“And to be effective, the scheme needs to be supported by ongoing activities to ensure compliance, including education, monitoring and enforcement of regulations.”
Gleeson said in order to make a compelling case for regulators and government, AIRAH needs good, clear data.
“So a big part of this project is getting the key industry stakeholders involved and working together to build the case for change,” he said.
AIRAH support a licensing scheme that covers all refrigerants, plus it should ensure Certificate III is the minimum qualification for professionals installing, commissioning, maintaining and decommissioning HVACR systems, the paper said..
“In day-to-day terms, improved licensing will produce better outcomes for HVACR systems while also improving safety for technicians, homeowners and building occupants alike,” Gleeson said.
Responding to issues raised in the position paper, the Australian Refrigeration Council (ARC) CEO, Glenn Evans, said that while environmental protection is the overall objective of the ARCTick based scheme it also has secondary benefits such as consumer protection and increased safety for technicians.
“It is worthwhile remembering that before the ARCTick scheme anybody could do RAC work throughout most of Australia,” Evans said.
“Our view is that any licence scheme needs to be a single national model, not State by State which can create Industry confusion, something we are seeing in Queensland at the moment where to achieve a RAC Licence you do not need to do any RAC units of competency.”
Evans said there seems to be a misconception that there is little enforcement under ARCTick.
“There is substantial enforcement through the ARCTick scheme – with 70 people losing their licence last financial year due to ongoing non-compliance,” he said.
“That follows on similar numbers in previous years. Losing your licence can mean not being able to purchase or handle refrigerant, a clear benefit of the ARCTick scheme over an occupational scheme.”
Evans said another misconception is that those with Restricted Splits (Cert II) licences were working beyond the scope of their licence.
He said the vast majority of investigations have shown that this is unproven.
“A point worth noting is that COAG has already looked into nationalising state licence schemes through the National Occupational Licensing System (NOLS) program,” Evans said.
“After a lengthy consultation and review process they found the national ARCTick scheme to be the most effective and efficient of all the licence schemes, and the only one to deliver a net benefit to industry. As a result the proposed nationalising of state licence schemes did not go ahead.”