Gas safety data follows blast

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The Department of Labour (DOL), which is investigating the April blast and fire at the Icepak coolstores at Tamahere, has only today issued a fact sheet for industry on the safe use of flammable hydrocarbon refrigerants – the type of gas used at Tamahere.

Unknown to firefighters and few outside Icepak, a highly explosive hydrocarbon refrigerant, HyChill-50 or HR22/502, was being used at the Tamahere coolstore when it exploded and caught fire on April 5, killing firefighter Derek Lovell and injuring seven others.

The issuing of the fact sheet by the DOL only after the fatal fire highlights how little prepared authorities were for the use of hydrocarbons in the New Zealand refrigeration industry. This is despite their wide promotion within New Zealand and overseas as an environmentally friendly replacement for ozone depleting CFC and HCFC refrigerants, which also contribute to global warming.

The Government backed promotion of hydrocarbons included a $60,800 grant to Icepak by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority to cover the costs of trialling the refrigerant, including safety equipment and gas sensors, at its Waharoa plant.

DOL regional manager Ona de Rooy said the DOL, which released an early report on the fire to Tamahere Forum in June revealing that the highly explosive propane-ethane gas was the refrigerant used by Icepak, said the gas was “an important line of inquiry for the investigation team.”

The information gathering stage of the investigation was nearly completed, she said in a statement.

“This stage has taken time because the investigation is substantial, technically complex and involves a number of parties.” These include the Police, NZ Fire Service, Environmental Risk Management Authority, the Waikato District Council, private companies involved in running and maintaining the coolstore, and several insurance companies.

The investigators have drawn on the expertise of the DOL’s hazardous substances advisers and occupational scientists. They have also brought in an external fire investigation expert and other experts to help prepare the safety information on hydrocarbon refrigerants.

“The following stage will be to analyse the information to identify what caused this explosion and fire, and what could have been done to prevent it,” de Rooy said. “Because of the complexity of the investigation we cannot put a time frame on when we will complete this stage.”

The final part of the investigation will be to decide what response is appropriate, she said.

The DOL was circulating the safety information to relevant industry groups and associations. It was also working with the Fire Service to ascertain the number of industrial sites using hydrocarbon refrigerants, and the scale of use.

DOL Principal Adviser on Workplace Health and Safety Bob Hill said that if hydrocarbon refrigerants escaped from refrigeration and storage systems they could mix with air to form a potentially explosive mixture. “So it is essential to have safe design of plant and control systems, adequate maintenance, and safe operating practices when using hydrocarbon refrigerants.”

The safety fact sheet is here: dol-hydrocarbon-refrigerant-fact-sheet

23 thoughts on “Gas safety data follows blast

  • August 1, 2008 at 11:30 pm
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    It makes sense to think that deborah is not a resident from Tamahere or even close by. Icepak, I am sure are welcome to have their say even if they don’t live in Tamahere. In fact I invite them to have comment.
    I would prefer them be up front and identify themselves if they do

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  • August 1, 2008 at 4:35 pm
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    Deborah, I’m pretty sure anyone would think that you’d made a personal attack. It’s your choice of words, see. You can leave an honest opinion, but just leave the opinion, not a criticism of someone who holds a different view. If you would like to check out the ‘About Tamahere Forum’ page you will see that you are right. Tamahere Forum is for Tamahere people. If others find it interesting all very well. We’re a welcoming bunch.

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  • August 1, 2008 at 4:27 pm
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    I somehow dont think that people will leave their honest opinon because its quite clear that the purpose for this website is for the tamahere people.

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  • August 1, 2008 at 4:25 pm
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    Why is it that its only the residents that think its a personal attack i was making, That was not my intention, I was merely stating the obvious. I gather that people “outsiders” are able to give there opinion as well.

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  • July 31, 2008 at 12:58 pm
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    Debbie, rest assured I haven’t confused you with Deborah but your welcome comment will make it clear to anyone in danger of doing that. I applaud everything you have said. Thanks for making your thoughts known. I’ve no doubt they reflect the views of many but as you say all comment is welcome – except for the personal attacks.

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  • July 31, 2008 at 11:48 am
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    OMG! Please don’t confuse ‘Deborah’ with Debbie who actually lives in Tamahere! People who only have ‘friends’ in Tamahere should perhaps be a bit less insulting to the locals and their opinions. Sure, we all are waiting for the investigations to be completed. However actual residents of Tamahere who live close to the explosion site, who experienced the explosion, and who smelt it and dealt with it afterwards are influenced by these events in a way outsiders can not judge. Many of us opposed the Icepak explosion over the years for a variety of reasons. The Council did not listen to the community then, why would we believe they will now. And it seems that Icepak are not listening to the community now. They have given no reassurances not to rebuild. I do not believe in a witch hunt against Icepak, but the community should not sit back and not express our concerns. A firefighter lost his life, we all feel deeply about that. The potential for more to have been killed, including hundreds of school children was always there. We choose to express our concerns for the future for our community, and most of the community is against Icepak rebuilding. People living outside of our community are welcome to have an opinion and comment. Deborah’s comments however have become very derogatory of another person and I wonder if she has a personal reason for that. Feel free to comment, but please leave out the personal attacks.

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  • July 19, 2008 at 7:58 pm
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    Well Deborah you know who I am. I will not hide.I will stand and be counted anytime.
    Maybe you should accept that the local community does have a right to comment and I for one have
    will not let that go.
    Sarcastic vitriol with no I D is just spiteful

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  • July 19, 2008 at 7:36 pm
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    Let me help: pejorative (adjective): sneering, sniping, negative, uncomplimentary, derogatory – perhaps I should add those to the comment policy so it’s quite clear!

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  • July 19, 2008 at 7:35 pm
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    Perjorative pfft big word for disaproval, belittling. Omg ok well maybe you can have a word with Arnold who appeared to be flapping his mouth before the jury is out. Hey Arnold check out the Thats life magazine it has a fantastic crossword section to keep the ole brain active

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  • July 19, 2008 at 7:29 pm
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    Deborah, if you are happy to wait until the investigations are complete, perhaps you could also be more patient, less judgmental and not use pejorative phrases when commenting on other people’s views. It seems you are not so amused when your views are commented on.

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  • July 19, 2008 at 7:21 pm
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    People outside of Tamahere felt for the firefighters and Dereks family as well. I will wait till the investigation is over to form an opinon.

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  • July 19, 2008 at 7:19 pm
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    Hi Philippa please dont twist my words, refer to my earlier post that people outside of tamahere feel for the firefighters and Derek Lovells family. I do not find it amusing

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  • July 19, 2008 at 7:12 pm
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    Deborah, it’s not clear what you mean. I thought I was clear. I said there was wide support for the Tamahere Fire Action Group’s opposition to industrial activity on the Icepak site. I didn’t claim total opposition. If you are equating the number of comments on the forum with the weight of opinion one way or other you are on thin ice. Universally for blogs, comments do not equate to the number of people viewing content. However, I don’t judge traffic as any indication of views either. The Tamahere Fire Action Group, however, had a huge response to the flyer that asked for Tamahere people’s views. You may find these things amusing but people who live in Tamahere find none of the things that have happened the least bit funny.

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  • July 19, 2008 at 6:59 pm
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    For sure Philippa I agree, however i have friends in Tamahere and they are also supportive of the firefighters however they do not reflect your comment that all the support is against icepak. And the lack of response to this forum tells me that people will judge for themselves. Arnold better be careful with what he says as well. Considering the investigation is still happening, I offered my own opinion on what i have read and found it amusing that he was jumping the gun and flapping his mouth thats all.

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  • July 19, 2008 at 6:57 pm
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    I am not into personal attacks, I was there 5 mins after the explosion,saw the fireman, did my bit when the propane was exploding, helped where I could.
    I don’t drink “hoppy” and if you would like to come and have a look at our home and see what damage it did, maybe then you will have some idea.

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  • July 19, 2008 at 6:53 pm
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    Deborah, please look at the comment policy. It quite categorically welcomes reasoned comment and suggestions and rules out personal abuse and defamatory remarks. Your comments border on the unacceptable. Arnold has a right to his views and to express them here. As you will have noted when looking around this site it supports the Tamahere Fire Action Group that is opposed to the re-establishment of Icepak or any industrial activity on the Icepak site. The wide support for that view in Tamahere has been shown by the response to the group’s flyer circulated in the district. Without doubt Tamahere’s people’s thoughts and actions have been with and for the firefighters. The goal is to ensure such a tragedy cannot happen in Tamahere again.

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  • July 19, 2008 at 6:38 pm
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    Opps spelling error, its hobby not “hoppy”. My thoughts are with the families of all involved. And for Derek Lovell who lost his life on that fateful night. I dont think its as clear and as simple as arnold is saying. I have had a look around this site and realise that its not objective its quite one sided.

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  • July 19, 2008 at 6:22 pm
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    Ha ha Arnold there you go jumping the gun again, how about you do some gardening pick up a hoppy or doing some crosswords to keep the ole brain active. I have been keeping an eye on the forum and find it quite interesting and informative, amusing at the same time.

    I find it rather amusing seeing the comments left by you ,arnold and jumping the gun at the same time, a bit like a little pacman. I hope this forum remains objective so that it can be informative to people rather than seeing it from one perspective.

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  • July 16, 2008 at 9:02 pm
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    I would have thought that the investigation and (prosecution) was simple. Having used and been funded to instal safety equipment at Waharoa, Icepak were aware of the downsides when used at Tamahere, They chose to ignore these requirements and should accept the consequences.
    Good work philippa

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  • July 16, 2008 at 11:00 am
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    Just wanted to say HI. I found your blog a few days ago on Technorati and have been reading it over the past few days.

    Reply

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