Licensing system for refrigeration, heating and air conditioning technicians

In 2019 Cabinet decided that a new licensing system should be introduced for refrigeration, heat pump and air conditioning technicians. This will be part of a wider licensing system for high risk work, which will include scaffolding construction and inspection.

About the licensing system

Under this licensing system all technicians that work on commercial or industrial refrigeration, heat pump or air conditioning systems that use hazardous refrigerants will need to be licensed.

This licensing system aims to support health and safety by ensuring technicians have appropriate training and experience to manage the risks to both themselves and others that arise from work on these systems.

Ensuring technicians are appropriately qualified is of increasing importance as hazardous refrigerants are increasingly entering use. New Zealand is in the process of phasing down the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) under its environmental commitments. HFCs are commonly used refrigerant substances, but have high global warming potential. Alternative refrigerants pose less environmental risk, but often carry increased risks to health and safety due to being more flammable, toxic or operating at very high pressure.

Licensing requirements

Technicians that work on “commercial and industrial” systems that use flammable, toxic or very high operating pressure (VHOP) refrigerants will need to be licensed. This does not apply to technicians that work on domestic or “light commercial” systems, such as vending machines, refrigerated display cabinets, retail icemakers and small drop-in packaged refrigeration units.

The work that requires a licensed technician includes installation, commissioning, repair, maintenance, decommissioning or dismantling of relevant commercial or industrial refrigeration, heating and air conditioning systems, except where:

  • The work is in relation to an automotive air conditioning system
  • The work is in relation to a system on a ship or aircraft, and is being carried out by a technician licensed under maritime or civil aviation rules
  • The work is “prescribed electrical work” (PEW) under the Electricity (Safety) Regulations done by a worker authorised to carry out PEW.

A licence is not required where the technician only works on systems that do not use hazardous refrigerants, or only on domestic or light commercial systems.

Licence categories

Licenses will be based on both the types of system and the types of hazardous refrigerant a technician is qualified to work on.

Technicians can choose to either apply for a licence for only one type of hazardous refrigerant (for instance, to only work with flammable refrigerants or toxic refrigerants) or one that includes multiple types of hazardous refrigerants, depending on which types they are qualified to work with.

Licence costs

Applying for a licence – and renewing an existing licence when it expires – will cost $720 (incl. GST).

This cost will be the same across all licence categories. The fee will also be the same if the licence includes more than 1 type of hazardous refrigerant.

Licenses will need to be renewed every 5 years.

Effective date

All technicians doing work on commercial or industrial refrigeration, heating or air conditioning systems that use hazardous refrigerants will need to hold a licence 4 years after the regulations take effect. We expect these regulations to take effect in 2023, meaning technicians will need to be licensed in 2027.

Hanga-Aro-Rau (the Manufacturing, Engineering and Logistics Workforce Development Council) is developing qualifications to support the licencing system. Technicians who gain these qualifications will have the necessary knowledge of hazardous refrigerants and refrigeration, heating and air conditioning systems to be licensed. Once the qualifications have been developed, WorkSafe will set the competency requirements for each of the licence types in a Safe Work Instrument.

Background documents

Last updated: 25 July 2023