Ammonia Leak that Hospitalized Workers Prompts Investigation and $110K in Penalties

A federal workplace safety investigation into a Jan. 19, 2022, ammonia leak that hospitalized two workers and led to the evacuation of about 50 workers at a Canton poultry processing plant found their employer might have prevented the incident by ensuring required safety standards were followed.

OSHA inspectors found the uncontrolled temperature and pressure conditions on an ammonia refrigeration system contributed to the release of ammonia. Liquid and vapor ammonia were dispersed in the air and engulfed the emergency exit doors that discharged outside. In addition to the hospitalized workers, one worker was treated on the scene.

OSHA issued nine serious citations for inadequately implementing and maintaining the process safety management program 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.

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