NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Safety codes, best practices, and building security all found themselves intertwined at the recent International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration (IIAR) Industrial Refrigeration Conference and Heavy Equipment Show, which featured messages from industry experts, a former astronaut, and an official with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

While the hotel and adjoining Nashville Conference Center in the downtown of Music City USA was adjacent to dozens of honky-tonk bars and Elvis impersonators, the conference’s refrigeration-related presentations and hallway conversations were serious and highly technical, especially for those interested in ammonia and other natural refrigerants.

Let’s Get it Started

In the opening session, David Rule, president, IIAR, described the recently completed IIAR 2 as the definitive safety standard. He also noted that its handbook, which examines the use of CO2 as a refrigerant, has been updated and published. The literature was available for purchase at the event.

Rule also referenced recently signed memorandums of understanding with ASHRAE and the Refrigeration Engineers & Technicians Association (RETA) that directed the associations to “identify projects that promote the safe use of refrigeration systems as well as sustainable refrigeration projects throughout the entire cold chain.”

In related comments, newly elected IIAR chair, Marcos Braz, MRBraz & Associates PLLC, Azle, Texas, pointed to IIAR’s advocacy efforts, working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), state agencies, and code officials when it comes to refrigerant safety.

Fly Me to the Moon

Mike Mullane, a former astronaut who made three trips into space, also stressed the importance of safety at the conference. He referenced the Jan. 28, 1986, launch of the space shuttle Challenger, which broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, leading to the deaths of all seven crew members. He said a number of reports had been issued for years prior about potential problems with the O-ring seals, one of which failed at liftoff, leading to the explosion.

He said the flights that took place following the warnings but prior to the Jan. 28 liftoff ended up being successful, causing a normalization of deviance and a drifting away from best safety practices. “There is a natural tendency to take shortcuts from best practices because of budget or time constraints,” he said. “You rationalize yourself into a shortcut by saying, ‘if it works once, it will work again.’”

He noted this is especially dangerous in an industry dealing with large ammonia systems. “You’re vulnerable,” he told the audience. He suggested a mindset concerning cost: “How come there is never time or money to do it right but always time and money to do it over?”

He called for responsibility and accountability. “Think, we are all in this together when it comes to hazardous environmental issues,” he said. “Have someone watching you to ensure you are hitting (high) standards.”

Homeland Security

The issue of terrorism, particularly the threat of terrorism in large facilities containing hazardous chemicals, was the basis of a workshop presented by David Wulf, director, infrastructure security compliance division, DHS. He said his talk was on the importance of ensuring that large amounts of chemicals are secure against terrorist attacks. This related to both an attack on a chemical facility as well as the stealing of materials that could later be used in terrorist attacks.

He detailed the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) as part of a government effort to help protect the public from potential acts of terrorism. He noted, “Certain facilities that store or use highly hazardous chemicals must comply with technical provisions and reporting responsibilities mandated by the program.”

Among the types of facilities expected to provide paperwork and be subject to inspection by DHS are chemical manufacturers, warehouses, distribution centers, and food processing plants, according to Wulf. Much of his talk, as well as the subsequent question and answer session, focused on the details of the fairly new CFATS program.


In addition to Braz, other officers elected included chair-elect Tom Leighty, Freije-RSC Engineered Solutions, Columbus, Ohio; vice chair Mark Stencel, Vilter Mfg. LLC, Cudahy, Wis.; and treasurer Walter-Teeter, Republic Refrigeration Inc., Monroe, N.C.

Joe Mandato of Evapco Inc. was named to head IIAR’s Ammonia Refrigeration Foundation; former IIAR president, Bruce Badger, was awarded a lifetime membership, and Leighty was also named Member of the Year.

Publication date: 4/21/2014 

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