Larry Basel
KISSIMMEE, Fla. - The path from a farm in central Wisconsin to the leadership of a major refrigeration trade association can sometimes be a simple matter of linkage. Consider Larry Basel, who grew up on a family farm and is now chairman of the International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration (IIAR).

It was natural for Basel to major in agriculture at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. That led him to a job in 1970 with Green Giant as a product supervisor in relatively nearby Belvidere, Ill. The product he was in charge of was stored in ammonia freezers.

Basel found himself wanting to learn all about that ammonia mechanical system. "Fortunately, I had someone there who shared information on how the systems ran," he said.

After three years with Green Giant, he moved on to Dean Foods in Janesville, Wis., as a plant superintendent. Today the father of four and grandfather of four is director of Safety/Risk Management - Midwest Region for Dean Foods, now based in Rockford, Ill. After 30-plus years' experience with mechanical refrigeration, he continues to work with engineers bringing systems on line.

Understanding Safety

In the early 1990s, the buzzwords in the industry were "process safety management." Basel's supervisors encouraged him to understand the issue better. To that end, he went to the 1993 IIAR Conference & Exhibition in St. Louis.

Basel quickly found himself involved in a task force on process safety management (the task force remained in existence for a number of years). In 1998, when the task force chairman, Darryl Larson, un-expectedly passed away, Basel be-came task force chairman.

This active and committed IIAR member was elected to the board of directors in 1999 and soon started his way to the chairmanship, which he was named to in 2004.

Basel brings an end user's perspective; he consistently points out the value of varied viewpoints in discussions and issue resolutions. Basel said IIAR also helps end users relate better to contractors.

Now at the helm of the 1,400-member organization for one year, Basel is placing a high priority on seeing that the Ammonia Refrigeration Management (ARM) guidelines are published. These guidelines are geared for small plants with refrigeration systems that contain an ammonia charge of less than 10,000 pounds, to help plant management and staff operate systems safely and manage regulatory issues. The board approved the guidelines during the conference.

A second focus is on education and the completion of ammonia refrigeration training guidelines that are being developed by an industry task force. Yet another priority is to work with fire departments concerning codes so that fire officials and ammonia system operators are on the same page.

Basel noted, "It really is not a one-year job. There is a five-year commitment leading up to this." The pieces that fall into place during his tenure will be the result of years of work by Basel and his colleagues on the board - similar to the way Basel's years of agricultural and food processing work led up to his leadership of this organization.

Publication date: 06/07/2004