Legislation updates News

Industry calms fears around incoming NSW licence

The mechanical services licensing saga took another twist when NSW Fair Trading sent out an email earlier this month to contractors urging them to start applying for the new mechanical services licence, which comes into effect on March 1, 2023.

The email warned that the licence will be legally required by those “testing and commissioning mechanical heating, cooling or ventilation systems”.

Understandably, this caused confusion within the industry, as it is not consistent with the advice provided by NSW Fair Trading late last year, listed on the Fair Trading website. Also, to obtain a mechanical services licence, applicants would need a Certificate III in Plumbing (Mechanical Services) or a Certificate III in Plumbing.

Keep calm and continue testing and commissioning

Industry groups involved with supporting the implementation of the new mechanical services licence – including AIRAH, AMCA Australia and RACCA – have moved to assure their members that if they have an air conditioning and refrigeration licence and are doing work within the scope of that licence, they need not apply for a mechanical services licence.

“We have confirmed directly with the NSW government that the rules around the new licence have not changed since their last statement,” says AIRAH CEO Tony Gleeson, M.AIRAH.

“If you hold an air conditioning and refrigeration licence, you can continue to do the work under that licence without needing a mechanical services licence. This includes testing and commissioning of air conditioning systems.”

More information is available on the NSW Fair Trading website.

Open questions for water treatment

Although the new licence is not set to unduly affect HVAC&R professionals, the same cannot be said for those in the water treatment industry.

Meetings are ongoing between the NSW government and industry stakeholders to determine where the licence lines will be drawn for equipment such as cooling towers and chemical dosing systems.

“HVAC&R is a complicated space that runs across a number of different skillsets,” says Gleeson. “It’s vital that industry is involved to help the government understand the different jobs and the systems they work on.

“Ultimately, we are all working towards the same goal – safer, more sustainable, healthier and more effective systems. AIRAH will continue to represent our members and the wider HVAC&R sector, working with other industry groups and the government to achieve this.”

3 Replies to “Industry calms fears around incoming NSW licence

  1. The concern I have is that the “Mechanical Services” is being lost in this discussion. I am coming from the HVAC&R side of things, not just the air conditioning side of things, where we design, install and repair all the Mechanicals Services within a commercial or industrial situation.

    How do the mechanical trades, like Fitting and Machining, Mechanical Fitters, Lift Mechanic, Boiler Makers, Sheet Metal Workers obtain a license, as they not a Refrigeration Mechanic or a Plumber?

    The work we are involved in, but limited to, is as follows, which will be affected if this matter is not resolved fully. I mean, removing the Mechanical Service out of the connection with Medical Gasses altogether. The Medical Gasses should be a separate controlled area, but not necessary limited to the Plumbing trade either. Allow the status-que to remain as is for the Mechanical Services .

    Work under taken in a HVAC&R contractors role:

    1. The installation of pipe work, in copper, stainless steel and steel, for refrigeration, chilled water, hot water, condenser water
    2. The insulation of that pipe work where required.
    3. The installation of vales and control equipment
    4. The installation of pumps and motors
    5. The installation of chillers, boilers, cooling tower, fans, Air Handling Units, damper, duct work, heating coils, cooling coils, drains to waste points (waste points and sewer connections are carried out by a licensed plumber)
    6. The commissioning of the major plant and equipment like chillers, boilers, cooling tower, AHUs and fans
    7. The repairs and replacement of the above as well as when required
    8. The maintenance of the above equipment
    9. The testing and commissioning the essential services for the commercial building, an annual testing of buildings for the AFSS

    We also under take the service and maintenance of all these items, either under taking the work internally or by engaging the required contractors, with the appropriate skill set to undertake these tasks, and most cases, they are not plumbers.

    The skill base of a Plumbers is not a mechanical base trade, where the skills set are generally from Fitting and Machining, Maintenance Fitters, Mechanical Based Trades, Hydraulics, Welders – Boiler Making trade, Sheet Metal Worker, Boiler techs, water treatment companies. The list goes on. You would also need to look at the lift servicing and or escalators as these are mechanical trade based industries.

    Would you take your car to a carpenter to have it fixed?

    The ludicrous suggestion that a plumber is able or want to handle all these types of jobs or have the skill base to undertake them, it is crazy. I think a push by the Plumber Associations to gain more control over the works under taken in the HVAC&R and construction as they do in Victoria, over the general mechanical trades.

    There was case many years ago, where the Plumbers were up in arms over the Refrigeration Mechanic installing refrigeration pipe work with in the high rise buildings. It went to arbitration and the judge awarded the decision to the Refrigeration Trades, stating that the skill level needed for the installation of the refrigeration plant and pipe work fell under the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration trades, as such, the plumber lost their claim to control this work. There has been a battle ever since.

    This makes my blood boil when a trade association, like the Plumbers, undermine another trade. We saw this happen with ARC license introduction, where the qualifications for Refrigeration Mechanics was under mined by the Plumbing and Electrical trades.

    The license proposal needs to be revised and thought through correctly, other wise there will be a lot of businesses closing and people standing on the street unable to work, as they do not fit the criteria.

    Kind regards

    Michael Hannan
    Managing Director

    Commercial Air Conditioning and Mechanical Services
    Maintenance | Service | Installation

  2. Well put Michael I am in a different area of the trade to you but see the pitfalls you have discussed & simply feel that the legislation is put together by people who have little if any understanding of our trade . My question is how do we as a group take this question to those who wish to enslave us .

  3. In all the information I have read on this subject of Mechanical Services License, I am really struggling to find any thing about Building Automation (BMS).
    One could make an argument for and against that BMS falls under HVAC with testing, Commissioning etc.
    I have called NSW Fair Trading and they couldnt answer either.

    Has anyone got something on this?

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