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$100K fine but praise for swift action

oshaUSA: A US food company set to pay $100K for safety violations with its ammonia refrigeration system has, unusually, been praised by the OSHA for its swift corrective action.

When US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors returned to Schwan’s Global Supply Inc manufacturing facility in Atlanta and found previously cited hazards had reoccurred, the food company’s management took an unusual step.

The subsidiary of The Schwan Food Company, a multibillion-dollar private company that sells popular frozen food brands through home delivery, the food service industry and grocery stores in North America, told OSHA the company accepted responsibility for the safety and health hazards and signed a pre-citation settlement agreement with OSHA on January 15.

“We are very encouraged that Schwan recognised the safety failures that have reoccurred and is taking full responsibility,” said Bill Fulcher, director of OSHA’s Atlanta East Area office. “The company settled the citations immediately and signed the enhanced compliance agreement as part of its commitment to protect its workers and operate safely. When employers are committed to safety, everyone wins.”

OSHA cited Schwan for four repeated, three serious and three other-than-serious safety and health violations. OSHA previously cited Schwan Global Supply in 2013 for similar violations at the facility.

The agency issued serious citations to the company for failing to develop written emergency shutdown procedures for the refrigeration system an failing to train workers, technicians and first responders on emergency action plans or responder’s duties for refrigerant spills at the facility.

Other violations included the employer not reviewing operating procedures at least annually and not conducting a respirator fit-test for a first responder.

In its settlement, Schwan Global Supply will pay penalties of $100,000. In addition, the agreement includes extensive enhancements and commitments for safety and health improvements such as assuring only authorised, properly trained employees perform service and maintenance on machinery.

It will also hire a third-party consultant to conduct an audit of the facility focused on equipment, fall, electrical and guarding hazards. Training will also be provided for employees on emergency shut-down, contractors, first-responder, standard operating procedures for new machinery and keeping a log of work-related injuries and illnesses.

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