Even though the weather in Albuquerque was overcast and cool, the International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration¿s annual conference and exhibition, held from March 16-19, spelled success. The focus of this year¿s technical papers, forums, panel discussions and problem/solution sessions was education and training -- specifically about safety. Process safety management (PSM), risk management programs (RMP) and IIAR¿s proposed guidelines for ammonia refrigeration management (ARM) were among the hot topics at this cooling-focused conference.

Currently, ammonia refrigeration facilities with a charge of more than 10,000 lb of ammonia must comply with OSHA¿s PSM standard, 29 CFR 1910.119. Most others fall under OSHA¿s General Duty Clause. IIAR has developed the ARM program to serve as guidance for those presently covered by the General Duty Clause. At one panel discussion, the positions of two Washington-based agencies, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), were presented. OSHA and EPA are reviewing ARM and considering adopting it as guidelines for those plants currently covered under the General Duty Clause. (See ¿Chill Factor,¿ March/April 2003 for more information about ARM.)

Ammonia safety and training also are the central points of IIAR¿s new chairman of the board, Ron Vallort, president of Ron Vallort and Associates, Oak Brook, Ill. In an exclusive interview with PCE, Vallort outlined his plans for IIAR during his tenure as chair. Apropos to the conference theme, Vallort says education and training are his No. 1 priorities. First on his agenda is to produce training guidelines for engine room operation. These guidelines will be designed for voluntary use to gauge the skill level of employers and employees alike. ¿The guidelines will determine what needs to be done to improve,¿ he says. The guidelines will work hand-in-hand with IIAR¿s ARM program.

Vallort¿s second goal is to complete development of a database of ammonia refrigeration training resources that IIAR¿s education committee has begun. Once the database content is complete, Vallort and the education committee will evaluate the data to determine where geographical voids might exist with an eye toward filling in voids. In addition to his specific goals, Vallort says, ¿I want to continue with what IIAR has been doing all along; that is, to provide up-to-date information on the safe and efficient use of ammonia.¿

Vallort also touched on RMP, which he noted is governed by EPA and addresses ¿outside the fenceline¿ issues, and PSM, which is governed by OSHA and addresses ¿inside the fenceline¿ topics. He says it is important to educate the emergency responders, the public and employees about safety and risk management. He noted that IIAR is producing a video focused on emergency response, which is scheduled for release later this year.

Running concurrently with the conference, the exhibition featured more than 90 vendors who highlighted their products and services for ammonia refrigeration. Traffic was good, and exhibitors seemed pleased with the turnout of approximately 950 attendees.

Next year is a trade show year for IIAR, which means exhibiting companies will be allowed to display larger refrigeration equipment and systems than is permitted in the exhibition-year venues. Scheduled for February 29-March 3, 2004, the Ammonia Refrigeration Conference & Trade Show will be held at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center near Orlando, Fla. Updates and information about the 2004 event are available from IIAR by calling (703) 312-4200 or visit www.iiar.org.