9 refrigeration safety tips


While keeping food at an appropriate temperature in storage or transit is an obvious reason for maintaining an effective refrigeration system, careful attention must also be given to the potential safety risks associated with the use of ammonia as refrigerant.

Below are nine tips to help keep refrigeration system users safe.

  1. Implement a refrigeration system maintenance program that addresses: wear-out / end-of-life; resources and approval & accountability.
  2. Provide refrigeration system, maintenance program and worker qualification/skill awareness training to all employees and representatives responsible or involved with approving arena maintenance related activities or expenses.
  3. Implement clear procedures that provide guidance and instructions to employees regarding the hazards associated with leaking chillers and required actions.
  4. Implement training and procedures for refrigeration system managers to identify the limitations of different technical qualifications associated with refrigeration systems and engage independent advisors for items considered a cause for concern.
  5. Incorporate safety risk assessments into asset management planning activities for all arena and curling refrigeration systems and mechanical rooms.
  6. Conduct an assessment of the organizational design and assigned resourcing for positions that are accountable for technical system management.
  7. Conduct an assessment and test of ventilation systems to evaluate effective internal ventilation of the mechanical room and external discharge in a manner that minimizes risk of exposure.
  8. Inspect all emergency discharge piping and confirm that routing does not enter any spaces that present a risk to public safety.
  9. Make publicly available the following information associated with management and oversight of regulated refrigeration systems, if you manage public assembly facilities (such as arenas):
    • refrigeration system maintenance programs for regulated equipment;
    • related capital budgeting plans for supporting maintenance programs;
    • assessment and audit criteria;
    • results of assessments and audits;
    • independent recommendations relating to the condition of equipment, including recommendations from maintenance contractors for repair or replacement; and,
    • any other information relevant to the assessment, audits and overall safety of the technical equipment and its management programs.

These nine recommendations are part of the 18 recommendations Technical Safety BC has made to improve safety in ice rink refrigeration systems and prevent an incident similar to the fatal ammonia release event that occurred at the Fernie Memorial Arena on October 17, 2017. The incident at Fernie tragically resulted in three fatalities, as well as the evacuation of 95 residents from 55 nearby homes. 

The recommendations are based on the findings from Technical Safety BC’s investigation into the Fernie incident. More details on these recommendations.

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