What would be the impact of an ammonia leak on your arena staff, visitors, and the surrounding population?
When managed properly, ammonia can provide a safe and efficient means of refrigeration. But precautionary measures and safety systems are crucial as ammonia is a toxic substance that can be extremely hazardous:
- Ammonia is an irritant that is corrosive to the skin, eyes, respiratory tract and mucous membranes. Exposure to ammonia in either a liquid or gas form can cause severe chemical burns or even death.
- Skin and respiratory related diseases can be aggravated by exposure to ammonia, even in low doses.
- Ammonia is flammable in concentrations of approximately 16% to 25% volume by air and can explode in enclosed spaces with an ignition source present— such as mechanical rooms where refrigeration systems reside.
Vapours from an ammonia leak can also affect the population surrounding the facility. In addition to three deaths; the Fernie arena incident resulted in 95 residents being evacuated for several days while the situation was brought under control.²
So how do you ensure safe operation of an ammonia-based facility?
- make sure you have an effective operational program in place
- make sure your staff are fully and properly trained and provided with all necessary safety equipment
- regularly perform a hazard analysis to identify and assess risks, and implement any required or recommended safety procedures
- model leak scenarios to ensure emergency preparedness
A study published by Natural Resources Canada¹ suggests a present value maintenance budget of $275,000 for ammonia refrigeration systems over a 20-year time frame. If your ammonia refrigeration system has not seen a similar investment in maintenance, you may have a significantly increased risk that could result in an incident.
(1)CanmetENERGY, July 2013, (ISBN 978-1-100-22499-2) http://publications.gc.ca/site/eng/447797/publication.html