Engineers can now renew their F-Gas accreditation online following the launch of a new service from the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA), in partnership with affiliate member Mitsubishi Electric.
The BESA F-Gas Online Renewal course is offered by the association's new online Academy and is said to be future proofed against any repeat of the shortage of physical training facilities experienced during the Covid-19 crisis and the sector’s rapidly changing competence and compliance requirements.
Head of Technical Graeme Fox unveiled the online training and certification process during a BESA webinar and hailed it as a vital step towards avoiding the kind of registration ‘pile-up’ experienced by the industry earlier this year.
The sector was hit by the first lockdown period as restrictions were imposed just at the point in the three-year cycle when hundreds of companies were preparing to renew their REFCOM registrations. It also coincided with thousands of engineers needing to renew their F-Gas certificates.
DEFRA denied the industry a legal extension that would have allowed engineers to continue working without renewing, leaving contractors and their customers in a difficult position.
“We had a mandatory certification scheme with an expiry date, but no way of renewing qualifications because all the training centres were shut,” said Fox. “So, we looked urgently into how we might address this as part of the development of the Association’s new online service.”
The BESA Academy offers a range of training modules for all building services disciplines and now makes it possible to renew an F-Gas qualification in under six hours from an engineer’s home or workplace.
“That means no more hassle booking a test centre, travel expenses and time off work. This will save engineers and employers time and money, while ensuring they meet the mandatory F-Gas requirements and can continue to work even during a pandemic,” added Fox.
Candidates do still have a ‘physical’ option by using one of BESA’s approved training centres around the country, but having an online option gives the sector unprecedented choice.
Some critics have suggested that the online approach is open to abuse, but BESA has put in place a robust verification process or ‘proctoring’, which guards against plagiarism.
“The process still finishes with an assessment under exam conditions even if you are at home – so you need to make sure your environment is set up for that. This will be verified by our proctoring agency before you can sit the exam,” said BESA’s Director of Training and Skills, Helen Yeulet.
Refrigeration engineers will also need to upload prerequisite documents that prove they have been working regularly on RACHP systems at Cat 1 or Cat 2 over the previous five years. These include a signed Statement of Eligibility from their employer or self-declaration if self-employed; along with two commissioning log sheets and a current or recently expired F-Gas Cat 1 or Cat 2 certificate.
The F-Gas renewal course, supported by Mitsubishi Electric, costs £295 plus VAT, but BESA, REFCOM F-Gas and REFCOM Elite members receive a discount of £45.