Contractors and EPA Compliance: Questions Every Contractor Should Ask

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Courtesy of Courtesy of IHS

Call it a mistake, a breakdown in communications or a misunderstanding. When equipment or building owners are asked for their refrigerant records, a common statement heard is, 'My contractor keeps all my records'. Do your customers have this expectation? Federal environmental law requires owners to maintain records on their air conditioning and refrigerant-containing equipment, not the contractor.

Most air conditioning and refrigeration contractors have come to the realization that many building owners are unaware of, or have limited knowledge of, their responsibilities and requirements under the Clean Air Act refrigerant regulations. As their installation and service providers, owners depend on contractors to be the experts and they assume that the contractor will ensure they are in compliance with these regulations. As the 'expert', it is in all contractors' best interests to notify their customers of their responsibilities and to make sure that there are no gaps in their compliance status.

However, even though they don't own air conditioning and refrigeration equipment, contractors are not off the hook for compliance responsibility.

Questions that all contractors must ask themselves in regard to their own compliance with EPA refrigerant regulations, and what their customers' expectations of them might be, are as follows:

1. Do your customers think your company is keeping their refrigerant-related records?
2. Do your customers think you are keeping their records for the required three years?
3. Do your customers believe your company will be able to quickly produce their records in the event they are audited by the EPA or served a Section 114a Letter?
4. Would your company be able to produce records with the correct level of detail? Would the records contain:

  • Full documentation on vacuum levels achieved on every refrigerant evacuation?
  • Pounds and ounces of refrigerant recovered or added?
  • Specific leak repair actions taken by each technician?

5. Is your company likely to be investigated or audited by the EPA if one of your customers is investigated?
6. How would your company measure up if it were investigated or audited by the EPA?
7. Are all service and startup technicians fully performing and documenting all leak repair verification in accordance with EPA requirements?
8. Does your company have copies and a complete understanding of the various updates, amendments and changes the EPA has issued on the original refrigerant regulations since 1993?
9. Does your organization provide your technicians, installers, supervisors and project managers with written EPA refrigerant compliance policies and procedures manuals?
10. Have your organization's EPA refrigerant compliance policies and procedures been effectively communicated to all affected personnel through documented compliance training sessions?
11. Does your company conduct ongoing training for technicians and other affected personnel that includes updates, amendments and changes issued by the EPA?
12. Do your service maintenance agreements contain specific language addressing refrigerant compliance responsibilities and requirements for both owners and contractors?
13. Have you established an ongoing process to collect, distribute and communicate the various updates and amendments issued by the EPA?
14. Does your organization have filed copies of EPA certifications for all technicians?
15. Are all of your technicians properly certified and dispatched in accordance with their certification level?
16. Does your company have a written labeling policy for refrigerant cylinders?
17. Do you have a written refrigerant inventory and storage policy that incorporates national and state regulations and building codes?
18. Does your written refrigerant inventory and storage policy address inventory management, disbursement, cradle-to-grave record keeping and audit tracking of all refrigerants?
19. Does your organization have a written policy for disposal of refrigerant equipment and parts?
20. Does your organization have a written policy for disposal of refrigerants and lubricants?
21. Does your organization have a written policy for shipping and transportation of refrigerants?
22. Do you have written refrigerant safety guidelines that include operating procedures for required safety equipment and for handling refrigerants?
23. Do your customers think you do?

If your customers do not already have comprehensive and consistent compliance programs in place, asking these questions will help you identify where your customers can improve to ensure compliance. Identifying areas for improvement in your company will also help you lead your peers toward compliance with the regulatory requirements of the EPA, DOT and OSHA. By combining best practices methods with specific compliance policies, you can help your organization - and the industry - establish a world-class refrigerant management program.

Consider the marketing implications of having a comprehensive refrigerant management program for your company. Differentiate your company from others by offering a value-added service that includes complete and accurate refrigerant documentation. Your efforts will show your customers that your organization is a 'cut above' the rest.

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