Conference studies Icepak fire

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The Icepak coolstore blast and fire is high on the agenda of the the NZ Cold Storage Association annual conference in Wellington this week.

Engineers and other industry experts have found conflicts in rules and regulations for coolstore design in the wake of the fatal Tamahere fire, reported NZPA from the conference.

The Wellington conference was told yesterday that coolstore designers and builders have to work under pressure from three Government sectors that have different aims, NZPA reported.

Cameron Smart, engineering practice manager of the Institution of Professional Engineers (IPENZ), said rules for energy efficiency, environmental impact, and workplace safety set different priorities.

“The three of them are incompatible,” he said.

Smart said some conflicts arose because efficient refrigerant gases had turned out to be destroying the ozone layer, and the ones which replaced those were now seen as hugely damaging greenhouse gases.

“This means the industry is inclined to go for `natural’ refrigerants, with no ozone or greenhouse gas problems but they are very volatile and inflammable.

“The Ministry for the Environment is pushing people in that direction … and we get this flammability, and if things go really badly wrong, explosion problems.”

Smart said the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) was pushing for the lowest possible energy use in running coolstores, which involved using a lot of insulation, and the Department of Labour wanted safe conditions for workers.

“You can’t have all three at once – we’re looking for the best decision-making process to reach a compromise,” he said

Icepak, whose chairman J.J. Van Eden and managing director Wayne Grattan are on the NZ Cold Storage Association executive (Grattan is vice president), is facing charges laid by the Department of Labour in relation to the Tamahere explosion.

Today (Tuesday, October 14), the conference will have a workshop entitled ‘Tamahere Aftermath’ to discuss the progress on the IPENZ practice note on coolstore design, which was initiated after the Icepak fire.

The Cold Storage Association October newsletter reported that the practice note was now in draft form and ready for peer review.

The conference workshop would “act as both an opportunity for industry members to comment on the document as well as providing further opportunity to discuss what the association can do to ensure industry compliance to best practice in the area of facility design and fire protection,” the association said.

Yesterday, the conference was also addressed by Paula Beever, the Fire Service national director of fire risk management, on communication with the Fire Service and preparedness for a fire. Beever led the Fire Service’s inquiry into the Icepak fire. Its report was released in September.

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