Keeping your cool

Controlled environments in hospitals, health centres and clinics is an essential task for those with responsibilities for service management. Air conditioning and refrigeration systems are the key equipment we rely on to maintain acceptable indoor environments and temperature controlled for storage areas.
    
If you are responsible for the function of cooling equipment in the Health Sector you should be aware of a new Regulation from the European Union which covers Fluorinated Gases used in this equipment. The Regulation became law throughout the EU on 4 July 2006 and it imposes obligations on “operators” of this equipment from 4 July 2007 that you should know about.
    
F-gases include HFCs, which are the commonest refrigerants in use today. The objective of the Regulation is to minimise the emissions of these gases, which affect global warming if they escape into the air.

Your responsibilities
“Operators” are defined as the people or organisations that have controlactual power over the day-to-day technical functioning of the equipment. The legal responsibility for compliance with the Regulation lies with you as the operator and owner. Any equipment small enough to plug in rather than have to be permanently wired is likely to be excluded from the requirements, other than an overall requirement to prevent leakage and to repair any leaks as soon as possible.
    
For stationary refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump units over 3kg charge (6 kg if hermetic), you will have a legal obligation to:

  • Prevent leakage, and repair any leaks as soon as possible
  • Arrange proper refrigerant recovery by certified personnel during servicing and disposal
  • Carry out leak checks to the schedule shown below
  • Ensure that only certified competent personnel carry out leakage checks
  • Maintain records of refrigerants and of servicing.

For non-stationary equipment (e.g. mobile units on trucks) and any other products containing F-gases, operators must ensure that appropriately qualified personnel are used to recover gases, as long as this is feasible and not excessively expensive.

Leak checking schedule
The regular checking (to be done in a way to be defined in detail by the EC) by certified personnel, varies depending on the amount of refrigerant  in the system, as follows:

  • At least annually for applications with 3kg or more of F-gases (unless the equipment is hermetically sealed, in which case this goes up to 6kg)
  • At least once every six months for applications with 30kg or more of F-gases
  • At least once every three months for applications with 300kg or more of F-gases
  • Leakage detection systems must be installed on applications with 300 kg or more of F-gases, and when these are in place, checking requirements are halved
  • If a leak is detected and repaired, a further check must be carried out within one month to ensure that the repair has been effective.

Maintenance and servicing records
If your equipment contains 3kg or more of F-gas refrigerant you will have to maintain service records including:

  • Quantity and type of F-gases installed, added or recovered
  • Identification of the company or technician carrying out servicing
  • Dates and results of leakage checks, specifically identifying separate pieces of equipment containing 30kgs or more of refrigerant.

It is your responsibility to ensure that the relevant servicing personnel you employ or contract to carry out this work have obtained the necessary certification, which shows that they understand the regulations and are competent. The acceptable certificates and registrations will be specified by Defra in due course.
    
The system should be labelled so you know how much F-gas is in the system, but if not, there is an estimate calculator on the Defra/DTI web site.

Need to find out more?
Much of the detail of the requirements has not yet been set (such as what constitutes a competent person, or what form the records should take). However the DTI has set up a website with Frequently Asked Questions, up to date Guidance and a copy of the Regulation at www.dti.gov.uk/innovation/sustainability/fgases/page28889.html .

You can also register at the ACRIB website for regular updates, and brief overviews of other current legal requirements relating to cooling equipment.

For more information
Address: Kelvin House, 76 Mill Lane, Carshalton, Surrey SM5 2JR
Phone: 020 8647 7033 Fax: 020 8773 0165
Email: acrib@acrib.org.uk
Website: www.acrib.org.uk

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