Our 24 Hour Health and Safety Advice Service often receives calls on matters not specifically related to health and safety. One common question in recent times has been about the inspection of air conditioning units. Although this is an environmental issue, we are able to offer the following brief advice.
Having air conditioning installed used to be a simple matter. However, due to environmental concerns about F gas -fluorinated gases- (one of the various types of gas that make air conditioning systems work) and energy use, the use of air conditioning systems, refrigeration, heating and other plant that uses F gases is regulated by increasingly complex statutory requirements. Some have a domestic base while others have an EU base.
Businesses are being increasingly targeted by air conditioning firms to take out maintenance contracts which they are told are a legal requirement. In some cases there appears to be overselling. In this brief article I will explain what is required.
The legal requirements place most of the duties concerning systems that use fluorinated gases (F gases) on the operator of the equipment. They also require personnel carrying out maintenance and installation work to be appropriately qualified and certified. Businesses that install and service the equipment must be a certified member of the F Gas Register. Operators can check that their air conditioning contractor(s) is registered with one of the designated registration bodies by searching the websites fgafregister.com, bureauveritas.co.uk/fgas or refcom.org.uk.
Operators have a duty to ensure that F gas systems are regularly maintained and serviced. Minimum frequencies are specified depending on the amount of gas in the system. Where there is:
• More than 3 kg of gas, a minimum of one annual service.
• More than 30 kg of gas, a minimum of one service every six months.
• More than 300 Kg of gas, a minimum of one service every three months.
The technical file supplied with the equipment will specify the gas and quantity of gas in the system.
When systems fail they must receive attention and be repaired. It is not sufficient to simply turn them off - remember that one of the purposes behind these regulations is to prevent the escape of F gases which damage the ozone layer and have a high global warming potential.
Record keeping is an important part of the legal requirements. Keep detailed records of all service and maintenance visits and of any call-outs to faulty equipment. Even if you have observed your legal obligations without records you are still open to prosecution.
These requirements do not apply to F gas free systems.
More detailed information can be found on the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs website, www.defra.gov.com
For more information on the topics raised in this piece, or any other Health and Safety issue, please contact our advice line on 0844 892 2772.
How to stop Air Conditioning from becoming a hot topic in the workplace.
February 11 2011