Fernie Memorial Arena closed off following the deadly ammonia leak. File photo

WorksSafeBC almost done ammonia probe 1.5 years after Fernie arena tragedy

Statutory agency inspects ammonia-based fish processing facilities, follows up outstanding orders

WorkSafeBC is cracking down on ammonia-based fish processing facilities as part of a safety initiative prompted by the Fernie arena tragedy.

It has also followed up with ice rinks and contractors who are yet to address concerns raised by the statutory agency.

WorkSafeBC launched a three-phase ammonia inspection initiative after three workers died in an ammonia leak at Fernie Memorial Arena in October 2017.

Ammonia is a toxic chemical most commonly found in refrigerants, cleaning products and fertilizers, and can be fatal in high concentrations.

Working with Technical Safety BC, WorkSafeBC inspected 228 ice rinks, curling rinks and recreational rinks during phase one of the initiative.

READ MORE: WorkSafeBC releases damning report into Fernie arena tragedy

Of those, 181 used ammonia-based refrigeration systems and 1108 orders were issued.

Phase two took place early last year and focused on refrigeration contractors conducting installations, maintenance, and other activities involving ammonia systems.

Thirty-two contractors were inspected, resulting in 114 orders.

READ MORE: Fernie arena tragedy raises ammonia awareness

WorkSafeBC is currently in phase three of the ammonia inspection initiative, which targets facilities using ammonia outside of the recreation industry with a focus on fish processing sites.

Twenty-one of the 24 facilities have been inspected, resulting in 272 orders.

WorkSafeBC Prevention Field Services manager Budd Phillips said phase three is expected to be completed by the end of the first quarter of 2019.

WorkSafeBC has also followed up with each of the 181 recreational facilities using ammonia-based refrigeration systems. Fifty-one of the 1108 orders are still outstanding.

Twenty-nine of the 32 contracting firms have been reinspected, with 22 out of 114 orders still outstanding.

READ MORE: Employer fines still possible after Fernie arena tragedy

Phillips said the most common orders issued related to exposure control and emergency plans.

“In general for rinks, the orders issued identified opportunities to improve existing exposure control plans and procedures designed to manage ammonia risks,” he said.

“For contractors, the orders issued reflect mostly enhancements to existing programs including work coordination with site operators.”

Phillips emphasized that none of the orders were written for deficiencies that presented high risk violations.

“Officers did not observe any high-risk violations or conditions that were immediately dangerous to life and health,” he said.

Since the Fernie arena tragedy, there have been a number of rink delays or closures due to ammonia safety concerns, including in Cranbrook, Crowsnest Pass and, more recently, Nelson.

When asked whether WorkSafeBC will push for a safer alternative, Phillips replied: “while that is outside our mandate, we know that ammonia is inherently hazardous and, as such, it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that controls are implemented to ensure worker safety.”

WorkSafeBC has resources available online for employers to reduce the risks of ammonia in the workplace, visit Worksafebc.com.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Soup kitchen proposed to help people in Houston

On-site harm reduction services would be available

Snowfall warning continues for parts of B.C.’s Interior

First significant snowfall of the season prompts Environment Canada warning

Petition calls for appeal of Luke Strimbold’s sentence for sex assault

Prosecution service says the former Burns Lake mayor’s case is under review

Northwest B.C. wildlife shelter rescues particularly tiny bear cub

Shelter co-founder says the cub weighs less than a third of what it should at this time of year

Former Burns Lake mayor gets two years for sexual assaults against minors

Banned from taking work involving young people for five years

B.C. woman charged in connection to stolen vehicle smash-up in Kamloops

Kersten Ina Peters was arrested in the Fraser Valley on Friday, Dec. 6

VIDEO: Harbour Air makes history with first electric aircraft test flight

Successful flight marks first of its kind in the world

Salmonella outbreak in Canada linked to rodents and snakes

92 cases of salmonella across six provinces, including B.C.

Meng Wanzhou wins right to more documents involving arrest at Vancouver airport

Defence lawyers allege the Huawei executive was unlawfully detained, searched and interrogated

Truck with body inside found at bottom of lake near Kootenay ferry

Investigators believe no foul play is expected but are unsure how the vehicle ended up in the Arrow Lakes

VIDEO: Calgary man narrowly escapes from avalanche while running at Lake Louise

Bryon Howard caught the entire wild experience on camera

PHOTOS: Competitive Christmas light display takes sarcastic turn in Princeton

Heather King of Princeton took a creative and stress-free approach to her holiday display this year

RCMP asks Kootenay cannabis shop to remove image of famous Mountie from storefront

Owner happy to comply with RCMP, but wants more information first

Most Read