Do You Have an Ice Rink Air Quality Management Program?

two people skate on an ice rink

Do you know what the air quality is like in your recreational ice rink facility? The truth is, most ice rink managers don’t. Unfortunately, there are no Federal Regulations for indoor air quality for ice rink carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide exposure. Recreational facility professionals often don’t know that their facility has an air quality problem until an emergency evacuation occurs.

Unlike homes, ice rinks are not required to have carbon monoxide detectors. This is why it is important to have air quality management programs in place. Air quality can be effected by a large number of factors.

16 Common Ice Rink Air Quality Problems at Recreational Ice Rinks

While indoor air quality problems in an arena can be caused by many factors, here are 16 of the most common problems:

1. Ventilation system deficiencies

2. Overcrowding

3. Tobacco smoke

4. Microbiological contamination

5. Outside air pollutants

6. Cleaning chemicals

7. Ultrafine Particulate Matter (UFP)

8. Refrigerants, off-gassing from materials and mechanical ice rink chiller equipment

9. Equipment that burns fossil fuels (gasoline, diesel, propane, natural gas), for example ice resurfacing equipment, ice edging equipment, forklifts and scissor or boom lifts

10. Infrared bleacher heaters

11. Hot water heaters

12. Boilers

13. Furnaces

14. Generators

15. Idling buses outside of the facility

16. The absence of an ongoing independent indoor air quality monitoring program

Most of these common air quality problems can be prevented by having an Air Quality Management Program in place.

Air Quality Management Program

An Air Quality Management Program that follows industry best practices will include:

1. Air quality awareness training as part of an employee orientation and workplace training program

2. Testing and recording of air quality in various areas of the arena at least once a week

3. Annual inspection and tuning of fossil-fueled ice-resurfacing and ice-edging equipment, including an emissions test by a qualified technician.

4. Protection from contaminated outdoor air (no idle zones)

Continue reading to learn more about these four best practices.

1. Air Quality Awareness Training

Air quality awareness training should be an important part of an employee’s orientation and workplace training program. It should include education on what can impact air quality, how to recognize the signs that air quality has been compromised and symptoms of exposure.

Carbon Monoxide, Nitrogen Dioxide & Ammonia Exposure and Symptoms

Exposure to explosive gases, carbon monoxide and hydrogen-sulphide, nitrogen dioxide and ammonia can cause a variety of symptoms. Below we outline the characteristics and symptoms of exposure to Carbon Monoxide, Nitrogen Dioxide and Ammonia.

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon Monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that reduces the oxygen-carrying capacity of blood. Common symptoms of exposure include:

  • Headaches
  • Drowsiness
  • Rapid breath
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

The maximum exposure level for Carbon Monoxide is < 30.0 PPM

Nitrogen Dioxide

Nitrogen Dioxide is a dark brown or red-brown gas that has a pungent, acrid odor. Common symptoms of exposure include:

  • Irritation of eyes
  • Irritation of nose
  • Irritation of throat

The maximum exposure level of Nitrogen Dioxide is < 0.5 PPM


Ammonia is commonly used as part of the ice rink’s refrigeration system. Liquid ammonia is a clear fluid that evaporates quickly at room temperature. It can become toxic and flammable at high concentrations. Common symptoms of exposure include:

Low Level (5 PPM)

  • Sharp odor is detectable

Moderate Level (6 – 49 PPM)

  • Irritation to the eyes
  • Irritation to the respiratory tract
  • Possible nausea
  • Possible vomiting

High Level (50 PPM+)

  • Possible ulcerations to the eyes
  • Severe irritation to the respiratory tract

Extremely High Level (300 – 500 PPM)

  • Potentially fatal
  • Can cause fluid build-up in the lungs
  • Severe shortness of breath

Here is an infographic that can used to train your staff on the dangers of exposure to these toxins. It is a good idea to post this in an area where staff can see it, such as a safety or staff communications board.


For any staff that deal with the ice rink refrigeration system, you may want to check out our Tips for Preventing Ammonia Leaks for Chilling Systems or 3 Steps to Ammonia Emergency Preparedness.

2. Testing Air Quality in an Ice Rink Facility

A good air quality management program tests air quality:

  • At least once a week in a consistent manor (i.e. method, location)
  • In areas where people are likely to be exposed including the ice rink, dressing rooms, lobby and concession stand area and both player and spectator benches
  • Are performed during a time when the equipment and facility is being heavily used
  • Provides a written record of the test measurements for easy evaluation
  • Written records should be maintained in a bound and numbered log book
  • An action plan that can be implemented if toxin levels are too high
  • Have set policies for dealing with any breaches of law that include the completion of a facility incident report

It is recommended that owners of arenas should have air quality testing equipment on hand.

Air Quality Testing Equipment

Air Quality Management require testing equipment for explosive gases, carbon monoxide and hydrogen-sulphide, nitrogen dioxide and ammonia. There are a variety of testing equipment available, most of them provide +/- percent accuracy of concentration of toxic gases. Some will provide you with an instant digital reading while others record gas concentrations with a data logger for a permanent record of exposure levels. Some of this equipment is battery operated while some of it requires to be plugged in. Regardless of the testing equipment you have on hand or decide to purchase, the gas detectors will have to be regularly calibrated.

3. Inspection of Ice-Resurfacing and Ice-Edging Equipment

Ice rink managers should ensure that their ice-resurfacing and ice-edging equipment have an annual inspection completed by a qualified technician. Technicians will be able to perform an emissions test and let you know whether there are any issues that need to be addressed.

It is highly recommended that you complete an annual inspection on any equipment that burns fossil fuels, such as forklifts, scissor lifts and/or boom lifts.

We also highly recommend that you stay on top of your ongoing and annual ice rink refrigeration system maintenance. This will help prevent the occurrence of any refrigerant links, as technicians will be able to spot issues before they become major problems.

4.Protecting Ice Rink Air Quality from Outdoor Contamination

Indoor air quality can be impacted by outdoor air quality. Those idling vehicles waiting to pick up or dropping off people from the ice rink facility could be negatively impacting your air quality. To protect against this impact, fresh air intake areas should become “No Idle Zones”.

Air Quality Testing

Air quality testing can be completed by internal ice rink staff or my third parties. It is important that tests are conducted throughout the facility at different times and locations, as well as the testing of outdoor air quality.