Fernie Memorial Arena was closed while Technical Safety BC conducted its investigation into the causes of the 2017 ammonia leak that caused the deaths of three arena workers. The refrigeration system used in Fernie is similar to the one used throughout B.C. (File photo)

Operational and technical failures responsible for Fernie tragedy

Technical Safety BC released its findings on the causes of Fernie ammonia leak on July 25

The chain of events leading to the deaths of three workers in Fernie last year have become more clear, and lessons from the investigation could be valuable to communities using similar ammonia systems in their arenas.

Following a 10-month process, Technical Safety BC released its findings, on July 25, on the causes of the Oct. 17 ammonia leak that caused the deaths of Wayne Hornquist, Lloyd Smith and Jason Podolski.

READ MORE: Civic Centre ammonia incident on of numerous cases occurring in B.C. since 2007

Jeff Coleman, director of risk and safety knowledge at Technical Safety BC, provided an overview of the investigation that took place between Oct. 2017 and July 2018.

“We inspected, tested and analyzed the refrigeration system components at the Fernie Memorial Arena to determine the equipment that failed,” Coleman said. “We identified relevant organizational and operational decisions that may have contributed to that equipment failure.”

Technical Safety BC also made 18 recommendations based on the results of its investigation to improve the general safety of refrigeration systems. The ammonia refrigeration system that was used in Fernie is common and used in arenas throughout Canada, including the system at the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre arena in Prince Rupert that had a leak on July 4.

The report concluded there were three primary factors that contributed to the incident. First, there was an equipment failure caused by a leaking tube that released ammonia back into the system’s main chiller tank. The system was sealed, but building pressure within the tank eventually caused a pipe in the mechanical room to burst, releasing the ammonia into the room.

The second factor was the decision to operate the leaking chiller, even though the issue had been previously identified. In the summer of 2017, the leak was identified in the chiller tank during seasonal maintenance, but a decision was made to monitor the leaking chiller and it returned to operation on Oct. 16.

“While the equipment failures originated from a small hole in a curling chiller tube, Technical Safety BC has concluded that the cause of this incident was the decision to operate that leaking chiller,” Coleman said.

Finally, the ventilation system in the ammonia mechanical room was not equipped to prevent a high concentration of ammonia from building up in the room. The report states that the location and condition of the fan could not ventilate the job properly.

READ MORE: Two taken to hospital after ammonia leak at recreation centre

The report’s recommendations included improving maintenance and replacement policies for the systems, providing more training for their use and creating clear policies and procedures for when future leaks occur.

In the Prince Rupert incident, two people were taken to the hospital and the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre Recreation Centre was evacuated. The leak is currently being investigated by WorkSafeBC.



matthew.allen@thenorthernview.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

City council briefs: Cannabis shop, Metlakatla venture and budget consultation

Prince Rupert council meets on March 25 for the Committee of the Whole

Terrace death not considered suspicious at this time: RCMP

Body of 49-year-old man was found in wooded area near Olson Ave. March 22

Pick-up truck crashes into nail salon entrance on McBride

Prince Rupert police say driver’s vision was obstructed by loose papers inside the vehicle

Three people from Prince Rupert area recovering from shellfish poisoning

Butter clams harvested in November 2018 could cause paralytic shellfish poisoning

Photos of Rumors on stage in Prince Rupert

Community theatre took on Neil Simon’s comedy from March 21-23 at the Lester Centre

Rupert’s greens ready for golf season

VIDEO: Prince Rupert Golf Club is open for 2019 with turf that weathered well over winter

Is it a homicide? B.C. woman dies in hospital, seven months after being shot

Stepfather think Chilliwack case should now be a homicide, but IHIT has not confirmed anything

Indecent caller handed 18-month conditional sentence

Vancouver Island man pleaded guilty to making indecent phone and video calls to women across B.C.

Sources say Trudeau rejected Wilson-Raybould’s conservative pick for high court

Wilson-Raybould said Monday “there was no conflict between the PM and myself”

First Nations public art piece stolen in Nanaimo

Spindle Whorl went missing over the weekend, according to Nanaimo RCMP

Father-son duo at B.C. Children’s Hospital helps new dads fight depression

The pair teamed up to introduce the only known research-based mindfulness workshop for new dads

Mexican restaurant in B.C. told to take down Mexican flag

General manager of Primo’s Mexican Grill in White Rock: ‘I’ve never heard of anything like this’

B.C. NDP moves to provide tax credits, tax cut for LNG Canada

Provincial sales tax break of $596 million repayable after construction

COLUMN: Smart phone too powerful a tool to yank from students’ hands

Rather than ban them from schools, let’s teach kids to harness their phone’s power and use it properly

Most Read