oshaUSA: Companies that operate ammonia refrigeration systems and fail to ensure safe working conditions for their workers will face higher penalties from next year.

The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is responsible for ensuring safe and healthful working conditions for workers by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance. Since 1990, the OSHA was exempted from a law that required federal agencies to raise their fines to keep pace with inflation.

Under a new budget agreement, the OSHA’s citation penalties will be raised for the first time in 25 years. The actual percentage increase is not known at this time but is expected to be in the range of 75% to 80%. The current maximum civil penalty for alleged serious violations is $7,000 per violation, and for alleged wilful or repeat violations is $70,000 per violation.

Under the National Emphasis Programme, the OSHA ensures ammonia refrigeration facilities are compliant with its PSM (Process Safety Management) standard and verifies that employers’ written and implemented PSM programmes are consistent. It also carries out random inspections.

While the air conditioning and refrigeration industry in the USA has a relatively good safety record, a number of companies fall foul of the regulations ever year. These are often operators of ammonia refrigeration systems. The Cooling Post has reported a number of violations over the last 12 months with fines of up to $250,000.

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