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Case Farms Faces Fines over Ammonia Leak

10 January 2012, at 10:14am

US – Case Farms Processing Inc, which operates Case Farms Chicken in Winesburg, faces fines of $288,000 for 61 safety and health violations.

The violations related to the US Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration process safety management standards allegedly resulted in an ammonia release at the plant on 30 June.

"Case Farms Chicken has a legal responsibility to follow established process safety management standards to ensure its workers are properly protected from known workplace safety and health hazards," said Deb Zubaty, OSHA's area director in Columbus.

"Failing to ensure protection through appropriate equipment maintenance, training and adherence to OSHA regulations demonstrates a lack of regard for employees' well-being. OSHA is committed to protecting workers, especially when employers fail to do so."

OSHA's safety and health inspections were initiated under the agency's Site-Specific Targeting Program, which focuses enforcement efforts on work sites where the highest rate of injuries and illnesses occur.

Of 26 serious health violations, 19 relate to process safety management standards designed to reduce workers' exposure to hazardous chemicals. Areas of deficiency include process safety information, process hazard analysis, operating procedures, employee training, mechanical integrity, management of change, incident investigation and response to compliance audits.

OSHA's standards contain specific requirements for the management of hazards associated with processes using dangerous chemicals.

The process safety management citations along with those for failing to implement appropriate emergency operations are in reference to Case Farms' inadequate response to an ammonia leak, which coincidentally occurred on the morning OSHA, opened its routine inspection. No injuries or illnesses have yet been reported as a result of the ammonia leak.

Of 30 serious safety violations, seven involve failing to provide machine guarding and 16 involve electrical safety standards including unsafe electrical practices that could have resulted in fire, electric shock or arc flash. The remainder involve failing to provide personal protective equipment to guard workers from falls and electrical hazards, allowing workers to walk on working surfaces without proper protection, and failing to implement and train workers in the use of lockout/tagout procedures to control hazardous energy sources.

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.

Five other-than-serious health and safety citations address an additional lockout/tagout deficiency, as well as a failure to document process safety required tests and incident investigations, record respirator fit tests and provide refresher training to designated first aid providers. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.