A basic education in the field of commercial and industrial refrigeration is obviously a good thing to have on the resumes of your refrigeration technicians, operators, and maintenance personnel. You wouldn’t hire them without some evidence of a useful background.

Continuing education of these personnel, however, is quite often a different matter. Unfortunately, some employers fail to equate the nominal expense of the periodic upgrading of their staff’s level of expertise with the important value it has to the company.

Continuing education need not be expensive when enthusiastically supported. It can be as simple as everyday on-the-job training, or a little more formal, like supporting attendance at local refrigeration groups.

A lot of knowledge is transferred when these guys talk about the thing they get their kicks from —their jobs. And, if you can make their job exciting and fun, they may just attract new employees rather than go elsewhere.

Be a leader

Remember to be supportive, keep track of, and record your employees’ training experiences with pride. And, keep their salaries up to the going rate.

Be a leader in the industry, build your own excellent refrigeration team. Continuing education can also take a more serious track when consideration is given to the number of excellent formal training seminars on this subject. You know you get bombarded with their literature on an almost daily basis.

However, not all formal classroom education needs to be in a seminar setting. Some of the possibilities include local technical evening courses, self-study courses, and hands-on Hazmat training.

Why continuing education?

But just what is it that we should be looking for in this continuing education? Basically, to gain a better understanding of the following:
  • Refrigeration principles;
  • Refrigeration equipment;
  • Controls, electro-mechanical and microprocessor;
  • Basic skills, brazing, welding, troubleshooting, etc.;
  • Safety, both personal and on the job (concern for others);
  • Preventative maintenance and mechanical integrity;
  • Emergency response requirements, first aid;
  • Industry regulations and standards; and
  • Making our jobs more satisfying.

What if both employer — and subsequently, employee — interest in continuing education is decidedly non-existent?

Let’s look at two typical scenarios. In scenario A, the employer refuses to support or to encourage continuing education for his technicians.

A young technician with four years of experience — an enthusiastic, good worker — is along with an older co-worker having more than 25 years of experience.

They have come to repack the stems of several 1 1/4-in. high-pressure liquid valves that were reported to be leaking. The valves are located in a -10°F cold storage warehouse, about 26 ft above the floor.

The older technician says, “Get the new packing kits and your wrench — that’s all you’ll need. I’ll get a forklift with a wooden skid to lift you to the valves. It’s about time you learned how to do this.”

When raised to the valves, the young man gingerly steadies the swaying platform by holding firmly to the piping with one hand, closes the valve and calls out, “How tight do I have to close it to get a good backseat?”

“Put your wrench to it and give it a whack to make sure it’s backseated,” says the older technician.

“Okay, but it keeps turning…”

“Well, then it’s not closed. Just keep tur…”

A loud woosh is followed by a loud scream. The valve body and stem assembly hit the ceiling in a shower of icy cold liquid refrigerant and falls to the floor, narrowly missing the older technician, who is un-fortunately looking up as the shower of subzero liquid falls over him.

In scenario B, the employer is fully supportive of continuing education for his employees. The same situation applies.

The older technician says, “Get the packing kits, the tools, and don’t forget your protective goggles, gloves, and face shield. I’ll get the lift truck and the work cage so you’ll be comfortable up there and have both hands to work with. And remember what we’ve been told: Use two wrenches on these smaller valves to keep the screwed bonnet from unscrewing — and put on your protective gear before you start.”

In this case, the job was completed without incident.

Employer responsibility

Supporting continuing education for refrigeration personnel is not a chore, or a gift from the boss, or a vacation.

It is the responsibility of the employer to assure that his personnel have the best training available. And, it is also the responsibility of the employees to take the education experience seriously.

People in the know work safer, smarter, and have fewer incidents on their record. They will cost less in the long run and improve your corporate image — and profitability.

After all, isn’t that what you are looking for?

Your support of continuing education for your refrigeration staff is just smart, good business. If you have a large facility with more than 10,000 lb of ammonia, according to OSHA and EPA regulations, continuing education is more than just smart, good business. It is mandatory.