As hockey season gets into full swing, one Winnipeg city councillor wants the province to change testing rules for ice plant operators- or risk arenas being forced to close.
Currently, a person must be on-site at arenas for the safety of players and parents. But some in the industry say the certification testing for the position is too cumbersome. Not enough operators are passing the exam, leading to staff shortages.
Seven Oaks Arena is a busy place, one that assistant general manager Margie Reis says hasn’t been easy to keep open.
Reis said they’ve been facing a shortage of certified arena operators who monitor the arena’s ice plant.
“It’s been very difficult, very difficult. Last year we ran into a couple of incidents where we were pretty close to having to shut the building because we couldn’t find anybody to work,” Reis said.
A licensed operator is required to be on-site as a safety measure to prevent tragedies like an ammonia leak that killed three workers in Fernie, B.C. in 2017.
Reis says arenas across Manitoba are facing operator shortages because not enough people are passing the certification exam.
“That testing has been discovered to be a bit excessive,” she said.
Community services committee chair Evan Duncan, along with Mayor Scott Gillingham, have put forward a motion calling for the province to review and change the certification process.
Duncan said Ontario recently adopted a four-day basic arena refrigeration course, making certification more accessible.
“I’m concerned that the requirements for rink operators do not reflect the work they’re doing,” Duncan said. “I’m concerned that this may lead to rinks being closed because there are not qualified individuals at our arenas.”
Reis believes Ontario’s model would keep spectators and players alike safe.
“If anything were to go catastrophically wrong, all the operator needs to do is clear the building, shut down what needs to be shut down, and get everybody out,” Reis said.
CTV News Winnipeg has reached out to the province for comment and are waiting for word back.
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