Grand Forks arena not impacted by ammonia regulations: RDKB

The new enforcement regulations will not impact arena staffing.

Just months after an ammonia leak at the Fernie arena killed three, regulations requiring around-the-clock staffing for arenas using ammonia are being formalized.

These regulations will not affect the Grand Forks arena, something recreation officials say is positive.

Tom Sprado, RDKB manager of facilities and recreation, said the Jack Goddard Memorial Arena in Grand Forks carries a “risk-assessed” designation that will exempt it from the safety order announced in December by Technical Safety BC.

That designation means the arena has a certain number of safety measures in place already, as well as ticketed ice facility operators or refrigeration operators on staff. The benefit to carrying a risk-assessed designation is that operators with certifications do not have to be on the premises around the clock — when the public is in the building and/or when the plant is in operation. For instance, while new ice is being formed at the beginning of the season, operators must be on site even though the public is not present.

The safety order stated that among other things, facilities that use ammonia as a cooling agent must be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week by a qualified technician beginning Jan. 19.

According to a spokesperson from Technical Safety BC, these are not new regulations but simply a clarification of existing regulations in the Safety Standards Act and the Power Engineers, Boiler, Pressure Vessel and Refrigeration Safety Regulation.

The regulation, which has been in place since 2004, requires around-the-clock staffing for facilities using ammonia as a cooling agent. The difference, according to the order issued Dec. 22 coming into effect Jan. 19, is a change in how operators can show compliance with the regulation.

Staffing of that nature would be a significant cost for an arena as small as the one in Grand Forks, Sprado said, which is why the arena got its “risk assessed” designation years ago through WorkSafe BC.

Sprado said, “the public” also includes staff without their refrigeration or ice operator tickets. Typically, an operator is onsite from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., he said.

The arena will be impacted by some additional strict guidelines, which include more signage, an alarm on the ammonia discharge line, and a device to make employees aware if the fan is running, Sprado said.

Small arenas, including others in the area like Castlegar and Trail, get risk-assessed because they cannot afford to be staffed around the clock. Sprado also said that for some arenas, risk assessment isn’t possible because of proximity to schools or campuses.

The Safety Standards Act, refrigeration safety regulation Section 54 defines a risk-assessed plant. Under Section 45, unless a plant is registered under section 54, “The person in charge of the plant must be present at all times…while the plant is in operation.”

“Technical Safety BC has been working with owners of ammonia facilities to promote awareness around ammonia leak detection, and to raise awareness about the dangers and prevention of accidental ammonia release incidents,” reads a statement from the agency. “Recently, Technical Safety BC has become aware of some owners who were not following these regulations. The safety order confirms the application of the existing requirements and notifies owners that they are required to have certified individuals in place by January 19, 2018, or Technical Safety BC may take enforcement action.”

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