Newfoundland and Labrador inspecting arenas to prevent ammonia leaks

Emergency response plans, written safe work practices required

Newfoundland and Labrador inspecting arenas to prevent ammonia leaks
In an incident this year, maintenance workers were injured after being exposed to high level of ammonia. (iStock)

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is conducting inspections of ice arenas in the wake of various ammonia leaks this year.

In one incident, maintenance workers suffered injuries when they were exposed to high levels of ammonia and were not wearing proper personal protective equipment. The leak occurred while the workers were draining oil from the refrigeration system.

Inspections are being carried out by Service NL to ensure appropriate safeguards are in place, such as gas detection and alarms, maintenance requirements, ventilation and staff training. The Occupational Health and Safety Division also conducts regular inspections at ice rinks.

“There are standards in place for these systems… Should an incident occur, the OHS division is immediately deployed to investigate,” said Minister of Service NL Sherry Gambin-Walsh.

The government has recently provided arenas throughout the province with updated safety information.

In order to prevent similar incidents, employers using ammonia in their mechanical refrigeration systems must examine the ventilation systems and ensure airborne concentrations of ammonia are within the limits determined by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH).

While detectors and alarms are required inside mechanical rooms, Service NL recommends employers consider installing additional detectors in areas outside these rooms as well.

Employers must also develop written safety work practices and procedures for draining oil from and adding oil to ammonia refrigeration systems.

An emergency response plan is also required. It should include training for workers and ensure that emergency response equipment is available in the event of an ammonia leak, ServiceNL said.

Ice rinks are required to have current and valid inspection certificates, and all workplaces must perform their own regular inspections under section 18 of Newfoundland’s Occupational Health and Safety Regulations.

Refrigeration systems are required to be installed, operated and maintained in accordance with the requirements of the Boiler, Pressure Vessel and Compressed Gas Regulations and the Mechanical Refrigeration Code.