Deadly ammonia leak in British Columbia linked to communication and personnel issues
The independent body that oversees the safety of technical systems and equipment in British Columbia discovered that a fatal ammonia leak near Kamloops last May was a tragedy that took years to unfold.
A report from Technical Safety BC indicates that the release of a “significant quantity” of ammonia occurred on May 26, 2022 at Arctic Glacier, an ice-making facility in an industrial park on the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc reserve. in Kamloops.
The report states that the refrigeration unit was shut down in 2015 but the ammonia was not removed and over the years miscommunication, staff changes etc. and then failure to not use a licensed refrigeration contractor to check for ammonia. the unexpected output.
One person died, two others were injured, the area around the plant had to be evacuated and nearby businesses were temporarily shut down when the deadly gas was released as a crew began dismantling the refrigeration system.
According to Technical Safety BC, workers believed the system had already been drained, but the leak occurred when a valve holding back pressurized ammonia for the entire system was opened.
The report makes three recommendations, including that a licensed contractor always be used when refrigeration equipment is shut down and dismantled, and that the Canadian Standards Association develop requirements for any decommissioning work on refrigeration systems.
Jeff Coleman, director of technical programs at Technical Safety BC, says the province’s safety system is built on the expectation that dangerous work is only done by those with the necessary skills and knowledge.
“Unfortunately, when this equipment was shut down in 2015, the ammonia was not removed,” Coleman said in a statement accompanying the report. “Then in 2022, a licensed refrigeration contractor was not hired to prepare the equipment for final dismantling.”
The statement says that between the initial shutdown in 2015 and the release of gas in 2022, “organizational changes, unclear communication and incorrect assessments have all contributed to the failure of ammonia to be phased out.”
Previously cut piping and disconnected gauges showed the system to be empty, according to the report, and this “led to the erroneous assumption that the entire ammonia system was empty, despite the discovery of ammonia the day before the ‘incident”.
Technical Security says any contractor licensed to perform regulated work in British Columbia can be found through its online “contractor finder”.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on January 26, 2023.
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