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Poultry firm faces $110k fines for ammonia leak

USA: A poultry processing company faces fines of $110,000 after an ammonia leak hospitalised two workers. 

A federal workplace safety investigation into the incident in January at the Pilgrim’s Pride plant in Canton, Georgia, found that the company might have prevented the incident if it had ensured that required safety standards were followed.

Inspectors with the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found the uncontrolled temperature and pressure conditions on an ammonia refrigeration system contributed to the release of ammonia. Liquid and vapour ammonia were dispersed in the air and engulfed the emergency exit doors that discharged outside. In addition to the hospitalised workers, one worker was treated on the scene.

OSHA issued nine serious citations for inadequately implementing and maintaining the process safety management programme for controlling anhydrous ammonia hazards in industrial refrigeration systems. Specifically, the employer failed to: confirm a pre-startup safety review before introducing a highly hazardous chemical into an existing process, and include instructions to address process deviations; train workers on the physical and health hazards of anhydrous ammonia; ensure exit signs were properly illuminated and clearly identified; maintain safe walking and working surfaces.

OSHA has proposed $110,630 in penalties.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.  

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