Shuswap Recreation Society general manager Dale Berger appeared before council on Oct. 23 to provide detailed procedures on how ammonia is used to cool the ice at the Shaw Centre. -Image credit: Barb Brouwer

Shaw Centre’s systems guard against ammonia leaks

State-of-the-art equipment and trained staff handle the potentially deadly substance

Following the recent fatalities at the arena in Fernie, Salmon Arm council was eager to reassure residents about ammonia use at the Shaw Centre.

General manager of the Shuswap Recreation Society Dale Berger appeared before council Monday afternoon to provide detailed procedures on how the ammonia is used to cool the ice at the Shaw Centre.

Pointing out ammonia refrigeration systems are heavily regulated due to the highly dangerous qualities of the material, Berger noted the Shaw Centre has a state-of-the-art refrigeration plant in terms of the safety equipment and procedures for its use.

He outlined some of the Shaw Centre’s safety measures as follows:

• The plant has a designated chief engineer, who is legally responsible for the safe operation and maintenance of the plant;

• All employees associated with the operation of the plant are fully certified operators;

• As well as Shaw Centre staff and the chief engineer, a dedicated refrigeration mechanical contractor is connected to the plant for all alarms.

The system is designed to detect the presence of ammonia, has alarms and is equipped with an automatic ventilation system operated by motion sensors. As well, manual emergency shut down and ventilation buttons are located outside of the room, along with alarms that can be seen and heard.

“The plant has been audited by Technical Safety BC within the last two years and it is currently in full compliance with any and all recommendations implemented as a result of that audit,” Berger said, all staff receive extensive training. “Our participation in the city’s Joint Health and Safety Committee is a further commitment to the overall safety of our employees and the general public.”

Further, Berger said all safety devices are tagged electronically, providing information on date of last service and next due date and all critical components have required replacement schedules.

“Certain aspects of the plant are monitored every four hours and a digital system tracks all of the maintenance,” he said. “There are many parts of refrigeration that have a shelf life and at five years, they are automatically replaced, whether it’s needed or not.”

Coun. Kevin Flynn said that while council is aware of the safety measures that are in place, it’s important to reassure residents.

“It’s not just a state-of-the art system, but a safety system as well,” he said. “When something tragic happens, they need to know staff are doing their best for residents without putting themselves in danger.”

Coun. Ken Jamieson asked if other chemicals are available or if there are plans to move to other refrigeration chemicals, but was assured by Berger ammonia is the most efficient and low-cost method for large refrigeration plants.

Berger added that moving to another system would be costly and a lot of money is being spent to make sure the current system is safe.


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