Chile´s Ammonia Sector: Leading the Way on Regulation and Certifi cation in Latin America


In November 2012, this column discussed developments in Chile´s Ammonia Refrigeration sector including the publicprivate initiative to create a Best Practices Manual for the local Ammonia Refrigeration Industry and the potential for cooperation between IIAR and the Chilean Chamber of Refrigeration and Air Conditioning. Since then, a number of important developments have occurred. First, IIAR and the Chilean Chamber have formed an alliance leading to cooperation in areas including the organization of IIAR’s recent Industrial Refrigeration Seminar in Chile (see article “IIAR’s Ninth Industrial Refrigeration Seminar Highlights Growth in Latin America” for more details).

Second, the Chilean working group that began developing the Best Practices Manual is now preparing the chapters for a public review. In addition, two other important initiatives are now underway in Chile. These include the development of a new regulation and a certification program, both specific to ammonia refrigeration.

Now that the core chapters of the manual are complete, finalizing the appendices and carrying out a public review are the remaining steps before the expected publication of the document in early 2015. According to Peter Yufer, the Chilean Chamber of Refrigeration and Air Conditioning board member who coordinated the working groups involved in developing the Best Practices Manual, the development of the manual has already had an important impact in Chile by establishing a good working relationship between the Chilean government and private sector representatives of the ammonia refrigeration industry. The cooperation of the public and private sectors on the development of the manual has paved the way for further cooperation in the development of the regulation and certification program mentioned above. Furthermore, given the inquiries received from other Latin American countries about how this project developed, the initiative may have an impact outside of Chile.

The regulation initiative emerged in 2013 from the working group developing the Best Practices Manual. Work on the regulation officially began in March of this year with a new working group convened by the Chilean Government’s Health Ministry in March of this year. Representatives from the Health Ministry’s Department of Occupational Health lead the working group. The private sector is represented by the Chilean Chamber of Refrigeration and Airconditioning. Three other food and export industry associations were invited to participate but they excused themselves because of the lack of personnel qualified in ammonia refrigeration technology.

The principal objective of the regulation, as with the Good Practices Manual, is to reduce the number of accidents in Chile’s ammonia refrigeration industry. Such incidents had become a big concern in Chile prior to the development of the manual. Current regulations cover hygiene and worker safety but fail to address matters specific to ammonia refrigeration. The approach to achieving this goal centers on requiring a minimum level of training for all those involved in the sector.

The contents of the developing regulation are largely based on the Best Practices Manual. Besides the training requirements outlined above, the first section covers terminology used in the regulation and the general requirements for companies that have an ammonia refrigeration system including:

  • Risk identification and evaluation
  • Preventive maintenance program
  • Safe work procedures
  • Training program
  • Standard plant maintenance procedures
  • Emergency plan

The remaining sections of the regulation cover: II. General Design (plant, machine room, drawings and symbols), III. Installation, IV. Operation, V. Maintenance and VI. Inspections and Fines. Peter Yufer estimates that work on the regulation is now 70 percent complete and expects it to conclude at the end of this year, allowing the regulation to enter into force in 2015.

As for the development of the certification program, the Chilean Chamber of Refrigeration and Air Conditioning established the FRIOCALOR Center for Evaluation and Certification of Labor Competencies in April 2013 to evaluate and certify job skills and knowledge of workers in the HVAC&R sector. Currently the center evaluates and certifies for four labor competency profiles for installers and maintainers of commercial refrigeration systems, industrial refrigeration systems, commercial air conditioning systems and industrial air conditioning systems. For 2015, they plan to add two additional profiles:

  1. Installer and maintainer of domestic heating systems
  2. Operator of ammonia refrigeration systems

Each profile is a set of knowledge, skills and aptitudes that workers should have and utilize to carry out their work successfully. The FRIOCALOR Center grants official certificates and credentials to those who pass knowledge based and practical examinations within the profiles they pursue. The certification demonstrates that the individual has demonstrated the experience and knowledge required by the industry to do high quality work. Furthermore, it carries the recognition of the Chamber of Refrigeration, ChileValora, and the Ministry of Labor and Social Security.

Chile Valora (the National Labor Competencies Certification System Commission) is the governmental entity that provides accreditation to the certifying bodies in Chile like the Chamber’s FRIOCALOR Center and to their profiles including the ammonia refrigeration systems operator profile that the center aims to offer starting in 2015.

According to Claudia Cousiño of the Chilean Chamber of Refrigeration, the FRIOCALOR Center must meet a number of requirements set by I to offer a new profile. First, the Center must have an evaluator qualified in both the subject area and Chile Valora’s evaluation methods. Second, each center must have the administrative and technical infrastructure for the profile. In this case, the Chamber provides the administrative support; the technical infrastructure for certifying ammonia industrial refrigeration operators will be obtained through an arrangement with a company from the sector that has adequate facilities for this purpose. The third requirement is that the center pay a fee to the certification commission. Lastly, the center must develop the new profile and the corresponding evaluation instruments.