Reporting non-compliance


By Grant Laidlaw
What do the regulations say about non-compliance in the HVAC&R industry and how should this be reported and acted upon?

safety firstImage credit: Freepik

Zack asks: We have had recent incidents in the Northern Cape where non-compliance issues have resulted in accidents. In fact, most installations do not comply with regulations (in particular SANS). In my view, not much is being done about this. I have spoken to various parties but cannot get any clarity on reporting non-compliance. Grant, this is a serious issue. Your comment please?

Hi Zack. Yes, I am aware that many installations, both new and existing, do not comply with regulations.

It is obvious that one needs the necessary expertise to be able to identify the non-compliance aspects of a plant that does not comply with SANS 10147. Further to this, it is important to know and understand the duties of reporting non-compliance. SANS 10147 should not be seen in isolation and cognisance needs to be taken of the fact that other SANS standards may be applicable to a specific installation.

SANS 10147 is a code of practice that gives guidance on the general aspects of safety, construction, erection, operation, inspection, and testing of refrigeration and air-conditioning plants. It is a code of practice that defines the groups of refrigerants, the refrigeration system types, and occupancy classification of locations. Included in the standard is a complete list of materials and components that are applicable to refrigeration and air-conditioning installations. It is specific to the operational conditions of components, the provisions for servicing, and factory testing.

The code raises specific instructions for the siting and installation of different types of installations with different groups of refrigerants. It highlights the location of refrigerant piping, and the function and requirements of refrigerant detectors. There is also a reference to electrical equipment and lightning protection in and around machinery areas and plant rooms. The ventilation requirements to give adequate air movement to restrict heat build-up from operating plant and also for extraction in the event of a refrigerant release, is dealt with in detail.

It is therefore necessary for any person or company to be familiar with and to follow the guidelines set out in the standard(s).

All of the above have implications in conformity with SANS 10147, should the guidelines in the code of practice not be followed.

The major thrust of this code of practice is the safe operation and handling of refrigeration plant and ancillary equipment. A wide range of safety provisions have been highlighted previously and the OHS Act is precise about the penalties that can be imposed for non-conformity.

In general, the following questions can be asked of any installation:

  • Is there sufficient safety equipment on site and are the plant operators regularly trained in the use of this equipment and how to handle emergency situations?
  • Does the installation have a procedure that clearly indicates telephone numbers and actions to be undertaken in the event of an emergency?
  • Is a competent person resident on site and are they fully trained in the safe handling of refrigerants?
  • Is a regular maintenance procedure in place and is all safety equipment regularly checked and the findings recorded?
  • Is there refrigerant detection equipment, and is it operational and regularly tested?
  • Is there a first aid box and a trained first aider on site at all times?
  • Are all the requirements for pressure testing, pressure vessel certificates, relief valves, and plant operating logs being adhered to?
  • Are all data performance log sheets being compiled?
  • Are all repairs and maintenance activities being recorded?
  • Is there a certificate of conformance?

There are a variety of specific areas with further in-depth descriptions
in the code of practice that should be studied with regard to compliance.
Zack, you ask: To whom should you report the non-compliance?

All competent personnel are required to immediately report any contravention of the OHS Act or SANS 10147 statutory requirements to the on-site responsible person of the facility. If the competent person is a subcontractor, they are required to inform the client both verbally and in writing by including in the daily submitted log sheets the details of the said contravention. They also must report to their employer the said non-compliance and possible consequences that could arise from the non-compliance.

In addition, a certificate of conformance should have been issued. In this instance, the signatory of the certificate will be responsible and non-compliance issues can be reported to the South African Qualification and Certification Committee for Gas (SAQCC Gas) as well as the client.

It is important that effective report-back procedures are adopted and that the competent person institutes a paper trail with reports that have been countersigned by the responsible person. It should be noted that failure to do so could result in a competent person being held liable for any occurrence that may transpire due to lack of attention, to ensure that the non-conformity is attended to. The law is very specific in this issue, as ignorance cannot be offered as a defence should the lack of action result in an emergency situation that could have been avoided.

The OHS Act, of which SANS 10147 forms subsection 15 of the driven machinery regulations, clearly states the following in the general administrative regulations:

Offences and penalties

Any person who contravenes or fails to comply with any provision of regulations shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 12 months and, in the case of a continuous offence, to an additional fine of R200 for every day on which the offence continues, or to additional imprisonment of one day for each day on which the offence continues; provided that the period of such additional imprisonment shall in no case exceed 90 days. However, should the offence involve the loss of life, the chief executive officer can be held liable and be subject to all of the above conditions.
Should the non-conformity be of such a nature that a lack of immediate action by the responsible person (after the situation has been brought to his attention) results in a dangerous and hazardous situation developing and the situation continues for some time, it is the responsibility of the competent person to ensure that safe operating procedures are adhered to. The competent person in this situation should contact the inspector of machinery and inform him of the hazardous situation and the continued non-compliance.
Each company should produce a file of standard operating procedures. In this file should be a complete list of procedures to be adopted in situations that develop with regard to non-compliance with statutory laws and regulations, specifically the OHS Act, including the pressure vessel regulation and SANS 10147. All competent people are required to inform their immediate superiors and the responsible person in the company of any contradictions and non-compliances with SANS 10147.
Failure to set in place a procedure to ensure that any potentially dangerous situation is brought under control, could result in all of the responsibilities and implications as highlighted being brought to bear on the company. It is essential that all communications are conducted formally and that records are kept.

What details are required when producing a report on non-compliance and recommendations?

Each installation will have its own peculiarities. You can have different areas of non-compliance but obviously in line with the code of practice, safety implications are of major importance.

Table 1 highlights areas of concern and can serve as a guide when compiling a report of non-compliance. It is an abbreviated list of the standards required by SANS 10147. In no way is it a fully comprehensive list; other sectors within SANS and the OHS Act may be applicable to the installation concerned. All standards and conditions of the OHS Act will be applicable.

Grant table

Zack, from this you can see that it will be necessary to conduct an audit of the plant. On completion, a list of recommendations with a timescale against it should be submitted to the appropriate responsible person.

It should be remembered that there will be a cost implication involved to rectify non-compliance items.

The list of recommendations should include:

  • A list of immediate action, highlighting safety equipment and procedures, should be presented.
  • A list of actions that should be implemented over a six-month period should be presented.
  • A list of nice-to-have additions should be recommended and presented.

At all times, the legal implications of non-compliance should be highlighted to the responsible person.
Zack, I hope this assists you with the non-compliance issues that you have encountered.

Thank you for all your questions. Send your problems (and sometimes your creative solutions) to acra@netactive.co.za with “Solutions Page” in the subject line. You may include pictures.

References

SARACCA
Pressure Equipment Regulations
SANS 10147
ACRA

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