Ontario GR Series: Flammable Refrigerants Training

Last month, the joint HRAI and ORAC Government Relations Committee approved their 2021-2022 Strategic Priorities. These priority areas have been identified as pertinent concerns for the industry and will guide our work plan in Ontario over the next 12 months.  In a series of newsletter articles, we will explore each of the four priority areas starting this week with our work-to-date in relation to safety and awareness training on mildly flammable refrigerants.

The refrigerant landscape is changing…

The refrigerant landscape is changing and, as an industry, we anticipate the emergence of new or adapted technologies and best practices as the industry transitions. Over the next few years, we will see an acceleration in the availability of technologies that comply with evolving refrigerant regulations.

Low global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants available to-date trade off their GWP for other unique properties that differ from the refrigerants we are accustomed to using today. These properties include high pressures, higher toxicities, different flammability characteristics and/or narrower ranges of operational effectiveness. HRAI anticipates further proliferation in refrigerant and equipment solutions, with very specific niches for these technologies. It is anticipated that lower flammability, A2L refrigerants will be used in the near future. As a result, there will be a need to update the technical skills of already highly skilled contractors in the HVACR industry. Governments will likely require stakeholders to be aware and trained in the mitigation of risks due to the flammability and toxicity properties associated with low GWP refrigerant.

4 Cross-Canada round table discussions 

To get a better sense of industry-preferred solutions to the challenges around training and awareness, HRAI held four roundtable discussions (coast to coast) with contracting companies that are actively engaged in the handling of refrigerants and who will be impacted by the changes in the marketplace. The four groups unanimously agreed that a mandatory awareness training course on safety and handling of mildly flammable refrigerants should be made available to tenured technicians at a low cost. HRAI is currently reviewing training offerings available in the U.S. and has come to the conclusion that a program can be modified for the Canadian marketplace. Training of new technicians will be handled by existing colleges and training centres focused on HVACR training.

HRAI working with government on minimum guidelines

While HRAI is in a solid position to add this training to the current curriculum, it should be noted that HRAI will not seek to offer this training exclusively but will work with governments to determine minimum guidelines and approval processes for training from other organizations. We will continue dialogue with relevant ministries and elected officials and will develop a project plan to guide a harmonized approach to mandatory training.

HRAI’s A2L Working Group

HRAI also recently launched an A2L Storage, Handling, and Transportation Working Group that will lead an effort to evaluate and determine the safe and reliable storage, handling, and transportation of flammable refrigerants and pre-charged equipment. The group will study and review the regulatory environment, relevant codes and standards, and work alongside our American counterpart (AHRI) to align best practices, codes, standards, and regulations where possible, as they pertain to mildly flammable refrigerants in Canada.

For more information about flammable refrigerants training or volunteer on the A2L Storage, Handling, and Transportation Working Group, please contact Caroline Czajko at HRAI. 

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