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$264,700 fine for ammonia safety failures

7678462_sUSA: A New York ice manufacturer has been fined $264,700 for failing to sufficiently protect workers from potential ammonia releases.

Arctic Glacier USA Inc, a nationwide ice manufacturer and distributor, received the fines from the US Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for failing to introduce adequate safeguards at its Brooklyn ice plant. OSHA cited the company for 19 violations of workplace safety standards following inspections that began in March.

Several of the violations involve deficiencies in the plant’s process safety management (PSM) programme. OSHA’s PSM standard mandates a detailed set of requirements and procedures employers must follow to assess and address hazards associated with processes involving the use of more than 10,000lb (4,536kg) of a hazardous chemical. Arctic Glacier employed 14,757lb (6,694kg) of ammonia in its refrigeration system.

“The release of large amounts of ammonia or other hazardous chemicals into the workplace would be catastrophic, but such an event is not inevitable if an employer institutes and maintains proper and effective precautions,” said Kay Gee, OSHA’s area director for Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens. “Inadequate and incomplete safeguards could be lethal.”

Hazards

Among the hazards found at the Brooklyn plant were incomplete operating procedures, undocumented inspections and testing, failing to prove employees with process safety information, failing to document that process equipment complied with recognised and generally accepted good engineering practices and inadequate work space in front of electrical equipment.

As a result of these conditions, OSHA cited the company for six repeat violations with $203,500 in fines. Since 2011, Arctic Glacier USA Inc. has been cited for PSM hazards at its plants in Fairport, Mamaroneck and Newburgh, NY and Aston, Penn.

“It’s incumbent upon Arctic Glacier to review, assess and correct any PSM deficiencies here and at its other locations. The health and well-being of its employees depend on it,” said Gee.

Other hazards included a lack of required exit routes; a locked exit door; failure to train employees in emergency response; unguarded and unanchored machinery; improper storage of oxygen and acetylene tanks; the use of improperly rated electrical switches in a wet environment; incomplete process safety information; lack of employee participation in process safety management; and failure to verify that employees understood process safety management training.

These conditions resulted in the issuance of 13 serious violations, with $71,200 in fines. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Arctic Glacier USA Inc is the second largest ice producer in the country and is a subsidiary of Arctic Glaciers Holdings Inc, which is Canada’s largest ice producer with headquarters in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

The company has 15 business days to comply or contest the findings.

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