Technical Safety BC urges continued vigilance around ammonia safety two years after fatal leak at Fernie Memorial Arena


Vancouver, BC (October 17, 2019) Two years after the fatal ammonia release in Fernie, B.C. that claimed the lives of three people, Technical Safety BC continues to emphasize the need for continued safety enhancements across industry to reduce the potential of ammonia release incidents from refrigeration systems.

Technical Safety BC’s incident investigation report published on July 25, 2018 revealed that the tragic ammonia release at the Fernie Memorial Arena was caused by decisions to operate an aging ice chilling system past its service life and with a known leak. The report also noted gaps in industry standards and practices that still exist today, contributing to other ammonia-related incidents in various facilities over the past years. As a result, raising awareness around preventative measures and the risks presented by aging equipment have been a key area of focus for Technical Safety BC.

An ammonia leak from refrigeration systems has the potential to cause injury or even death to employees, emergency response personnel, members of the public using the facilities, and those living in the nearby area,” says Technical Safety BC President and CEO Catherine Roome. “If your refrigeration systems use ammonia, it is critical to understand the hazards, have qualified employees in place to deal with this complex equipment, and be aware of the risks presented by aging equipment.”

She adds, “We’ve been encouraged by the number of municipalities assessing and replacing aging equipment in public arenas and rinks. We encourage those entrusted with making decisions around repairing or replacing equipment to demonstrate safety leadership, understanding that these choices must not be driven only by financial concerns, but by the potential impact of a leak.”

Following our investigation into the Fernie incident, Technical Safety BC released 18 recommendations for arena owners, maintenance contractors, local B.C. governments, and training providers to prevent a repeat of the tragedy, and offered a number of educational programs to augment skills and knowledge about the dangers of ammonia release. Technical Safety BC continues to work with industry to increase knowledge. One example is a new industry maintenance guideline to support facility owners and refrigeration professionals focused around equipment integrity planning and safety management at refrigeration facilities.

“Safety is a shared responsibility that we take very seriously,” Roome says. “While the owners of these facilities are ultimately responsible for the ongoing maintenance and replacement of their equipment and ensuring their staff are trained appropriately, we have technical expertise and supporting data that can be used to help these organizations mitigate risk. We are here to support with education, resources, and training.”

About Technical Safety BC
Technical Safety BC (formerly BC Safety Authority) is an independent, self-funded organization that oversees the safe installation and operation of technical systems and equipment. In addition to issuing permits, licences and certificates, it works with industry to reduce safety risks through assessment, education and outreach, enforcement, and research. For more information, visit


Media contact:
Laura McLeod, Communications Business Partner
Phone: 250 734 3906


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