In light of the tragedy in Fernie, the City of Trail is reminding its staff of the safety protocols involving the arena refrigeration plant at the Trail Memorial Centre. In August, City of Trail arena staff whitewashed the rink surface during the initial stages of preparing the ice surface. (Guy Bertrand photo)

Trail reviews safety protocols in light of Fernie arena tragedy

Robert Baker: "Trail's plant is fully automated…any defect…will shut down respective equipment."

In light of the tragedy in Fernie, the City of Trail is reminding its staff of the safety protocols involving the arena refrigeration plant at the Trail Memorial Centre.

On Tuesday in Fernie three workers, doing routine maintenance at the ice rink, were killed by a suspected ammonia leak.

Ammonia is commonly used in mechanical refrigeration systems, including those found in ice rinks. It is used in liquid form in such systems but becomes a gas once it is released into the air.

Robert Baker, Trail’s deputy director of Parks and Recreation, was quick to issue a staff report on arena refrigeration plant safety on the heels of the East Kootenay tragedy.

“We knew council would have questions and concerns,” Baker told the Trail Times Wednesday morning. “So I put some information together (Tuesday night) so they would have answers.”

He added he also met with Dave Rugg, facilities foreman, Wednesday morning to review the plant and procedures.

“We went through our documentation and toured the plant room, identified minor house-keeping things to take care of. I chatted with a couple of our daytime staff. And then everyone will get a copy of the report because they might have concerns as well as an employee.”

Baker said he was also planning to meet with staff at the afternoon shift change.

Baker’s report highlights the safety standards and regulatory compliance at the Cominco Arena. He also provided an analysis of Trail’s facility.

“Trail’s plant is fully automated whereby any defect in machinery will shut down the respective equipment,” said Baker’s report.

“Multiple safeties exist on each major piece of equipment. If the equipment’s temperature becomes too hot or cold, the equipment will shut down; if the temperature safety device malfunctions and does not shutdown the equipment, the equipment will then be shut down by a high/low pressure cutout. If this fails, the equipment will relieve pressure before it explodes by releasing the ammonia to the atmosphere at a safe height and distance above the building. At each level of safety, an alarm exists which notifies our monitoring company of the malfunction. Staff are then called out to respond.”

“In the event of an ammonia leak within the plant, the ammonia leak detection system will notify emergency responders, and call staff. The system also triggers the fire alarm bells within the arena to initiate self-evacuation.”

His report added that the staff is certified for their specific duties and “level of responsibilities” and re-trained annually to meet safety standards.

Baker didn’t want to speculate on the cause of the accident in Fernie.

“We don’t know what happened in Fernie but it shouldn’t happen in any rink if you’re following the rules. It’s paramount that we follow what we’re supposed to do.

“I think the big thing for everyone to remember is that if something did go wrong, the plant rooms are air-tight and all they have to do is leave the area and call 9-1-1. Leave the room alone, it’ll contain the gas. Just get out of there and save yourself.”

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