KISSIMMEE, Fla. - The people who operate and service ammonia refrigeration systems are key to the systems' successful operation. But what is there to guide the trainers, to make sure what they are providing is what operators and technicians need?

That's something a cross-section of industry representatives is trying to get a handle on.

At the most recent International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration (IIAR) Conference & Trade Show, the Ammonia Refrigeration Training Task Force reported that organizations such as IIAR, the Refrigerating Engineers and Technicians Association (RETA), American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), and International Association of Refrigerated Warehouses (IARW) had representation in the process. People from technical schools, contracting companies, trainers, and end users have also gotten involved.

In his opening remarks at the convention, then IIAR Chairman Ron Vallort said the purpose of the training guidelines is to "promote the safe, efficient, and cost-effective operation of ammonia refrigeration systems and equipment."

Vern Karman, the new task force chairman, noted that the task force was formed in October 2002 and is moving toward a Public Review Draft proposal some time this summer, to be followed by a comment period. He said the objective is to come up with "a good checklist so as to not overlook any area" where training is needed.

"It is not a tool in itself to train someone," he said. However, it provides guidelines for training providers to follow. "We are not writing textbooks. These are going to be outlines that hopefully cover all the bases. And there will be flexibility about how to cover the topics and provide the training.

"Hopefully this will give some idea of the gaps that need to be filled."

Offering a report on progress in developing guidelines for ammonia refrigeration training are (from left) Vern Karman, Don Tragethon, John Sherrill, Dallas Babcock, Chris Meyer, and Ron Miller.

Industry Guidelines

Audience members heard from a number of individuals on how the guidelines could mesh with the needs of the industry.

Dan Tragethon of Western Precooling Systems, Salinas, Calif., said, "We think the guidelines are necessary." He noted that while RETA (of which he is Education Committee Chair) has an extensive training and certification program, an industrywide guideline could provide "a more clear understanding of the operator's role in the big picture."

That could lead to a gap analysis, he said, in which a provider of training could look at "what it has versus what the guide says."

John Sherrill of Lanier Technical College, Oakwood, Ga., noted that his facility has a $2 million hands-on lab dedicated to ammonia refrigeration systems; he committed to participating in the guideline process. He noted current Lanier programs probably cover 99 percent of entry-level expectations for operators, perhaps 85 percent for operators, and 50 percent for higher levels. Following guidelines "will mean that new offerings could bring Lanier to 100-percent consistency with what the industry needs.

Dallas Babcock of Garden City Community College, Garden City, Kan. (site of the industry's first hands-on ammonia training program), said the school surveys students in classes to see what their needs are. The school also surveys students at the end of week-long seminars "about what was valuable and what was not needed."

Chris Meyer of end user Sargento said he was involved in the task force because of the importance of understanding the responsibility and daily duties of equipment operators. He said attention is being paid currently to certification or licensing; he said his company hopes to use the industry guidelines to better define responsibilities for entry-level operators and technicians.

Ron Miller of end user General Mills noted his company does mostly in-house training for 250 operators in 35 ammonia facilities. When the guidelines are adopted and other teaching sources embrace the guidelines, he said General Mills could rely on such places for training. "We want to get out of the training business," he said.

Publication date: 06/07/2004