Industry Joins Together to Provide Valuable Training to OSHA Inspectors

Occupational Safety and Health Administration compliance officers are continuing to benefit from ammonia refrigeration education presented by the Industrial Refrigeration Consortium. The training, which is funded by IIAR, the Global Cold Chain Alliance, IRC, and OSHA, first launched in the fall of 2014.

“As we all continue to advocate for expanded use of ammonia and other natural refrigerants for all types of applications, having such critically needed training for government agencies on regulation can only help with an end user’s ability to more easily comply with safety and environmental regulations when they hopefully make the wise but difficult choice to move away from synthetics,” said Gary Schrift, president of IIAR.

The training covers industrial refrigeration technology with an emphasis on ammonia, said Douglas Reindl, a professor at the University of Wisconsin, director of the IRC, and a previous member of the IIAR board.

Reindl conducts the sessions. The training is designed to develop OSHA’s compliance safety and health officers’ (CSHO) understanding of industrial ammonia refrigeration systems and their principles of operation, the types of engineered safety systems applied to ammonia refrigeration technology, the generally accepted good engineering practices (RAGAGEP) that applies to industrial ammonia refrigeration systems, and the common failure mechanics that can compromise the mechanical integrity of industrial ammonia refrigeration systems.

“We talk about how systems function, refrigerant properties, major components that comprise an ammonia refrigeration system,” Reindl said. “We spend a significant amount of time on industry related codes and standards with an emphasis on IIAR’s suite of standards but also highlighting related recognized and RAGAGEP standards published by ASME, ISEA, and the model codes.”

The course discusses the basics of mechanical integrity as it is the most frequently cited element for PSM-covered processes. “Finally, we cover safety systems that are relevant for industrial refrigeration systems,” Reindl said.

The training is updated each year as content as well as the homework assigned to attendees evolves. Although CSHOs take part in the training, everyone within the refrigeration industry benefits. “The training has really helped to communicate information about industrial refrigeration systems and the technology specific RAGAGEP, which has avoided CSHOs trying to enforce other codes and standards that are not technology-relevant but may be more familiar to them based on their background and past experience,” Reindl said.

Jeff Carter, global technical services director for General Mills and IIAR board member, said properly trained OSHA inspectors result in better and more accurate facility inspections. “Most inspectors are trained on industrial oil and gas systems, which are very different than ammonia systems. This training provides foundational knowledge of ammonia systems,” he said.

Schrift said when OSHA compliance officers are better educated on the details of ammonia refrigeration, including IIAR standards and guidelines, it is more likely they will use those interpretations when deciding if there is an actual issue at a site.

About 200 hundred OSHA personnel have taken the course. “The course has been very well received, and OSHA has appreciated the collaboration. IIAR has also created a ‘government portal’ that allows regulators to access and view IIAR’s latest standards,” Reindl said. Carter said the training demonstrates IIAR’s leadership and commitment to education, including regulators. “Specifically, the safe operation of ammonia systems,” he said. “Ammonia is the safest, most cost-effective, and efficient natural refrigerant available to industry, but without training and education, people could have a false or misleading understanding of ammonia. IIAR is recognized as the organization that writes design and operational standards for industrial ammonia refrigeration and education is a natural part of IIAR’s mission.”