Vancouver Park Board reassures public its ice rinks are safe after Fernie ammonia deaths

Oct 19 2017, 11:36 pm

After an ammonia leak at an arena caused the deaths of three people in the small town of Fernie, BC this week, some Vancouverites are wondering if such a situation could happen here, but the the Vancouver Park Board (VPB) reassures people that is unlikely.

The VPB operates a total of eight indoor ice rinks in the city, which all use an ammonia refrigeration system.

A spokesperson for the Park Board told Daily Hive that there are no records from any of the rinks to indicate there has ever been any critical incidents involving ammonia.

The VPB noted that all ice rink refrigeration systems fall under the provincial government’s Technical Safety BC, which sets standards, issue permits and inspect rinks annually, and that ammonia is a greenhouse gas friendly natural refrigerant which has been used in refrigeration plants for over a century.

Regulations and training

The VPB said regulations stipulate that trained staff be on site during the operation of the refrigeration system.

In addition, all rinks are required to have an alarm monitoring system and emergency procedures in place to detect and respond quickly to a breach in the system.

In addition, the VPB has a Chief Engineer, or Maintenance Technician II, at each rink responsible for the safe operation of the ice rink and ammonia plant.

In addition to revised policies, procedures and staff training, the VPB noted there have been a number of physical plant upgrades over the past few years. These include:

  • Upgraded ammonia detection systems and sensors
  • Construction of vestibules
  • Signage

Staff are also trained and equipped with personal protective equipment such as personal ammonia sensors and emergency respirators.

“Maintenance and Recreation staff (skating instructors, patrol, skate shop) review and practice ammonia alarm and evacuation procedures once per year, at minimum, during annual in-service training sessions,” the VPB said.

“Staff are required to perform fire evacuations (real and drills) periodically throughout the year which are a similar response to ammonia leak evacuations.”

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