Ammonia Leak Fatality Leads to Safety Fines

Tuesday, October 4, 2016 @ 07:10 PM gHale

Brian Caron died on the job March 23 when he was fatally overcome by an ammonia leak caused by a burst pipe in the machine shop of his employer, Boston fish and seafood wholesaler Stavis Seafoods Inc.

As a result of its findings, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited Stavis Seafoods Inc. for 20 serious violations of workplace safety and health standards and it is facing fines of $173,168.

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An inspection by OSHA investigators determined the deficient design and lack of proper operation and maintenance for the machine shop’s ammonia refrigeration system and equipment exposed Caron and other Stavis employees to a catastrophic release of ammonia.

Specifically, Stavis Seafoods failed to:
• Ensure proper containment of ammonia within the machine room in that there were large floor holes and no door to separate the machine room from a maintenance/storage room and prevent the spread of ammonia vapor
• Test and calibrate ammonia sensors following the manufacturer’s recommendations
• Establish and implement an adequate inspection schedule for pressure vessels
• Label ammonia piping properly
• Provide a ventilation system sufficient to prevent possible combustion or explosion of ammonia vapors resulting from an ammonia release

In addition, the alarm system for the ammonia machine room was not working and the employer failed to train plant employees adequately in emergency evacuation procedures.

“The company’s failure to follow industry and OSHA standards exposed its employees to the hazards of an ammonia release as well as falls, electric shock, hazardous chemicals and delayed or obstructed exit from the facility during a leak or other emergency. It’s clear that Stavis Seafoods must take effective action to correct these hazards and prevent their recurrence so that no other employees are harmed on the job,” said James Mulligan, OSHA’s acting area director for Boston and southeastern Massachusetts.

OSHA’s inspection identified several other conditions which exposed employees to:
• Falls due to insufficiently guarded door openings, lack of roof guardrails, defective ladders and an unmarked door leading to a 17-foot drop
• Impeded or blocked exit routes stemming from inadequately stored equipment and sheets of plywood and building materials and equipment stored near the exit door
• An incomplete inventory of hazardous chemicals used in the workplace, unlabeled containers of hazardous chemicals and not providing adequate chemical hazard communication training to employees
• Several electrical hazards including improper use of electrical wiring and equipment, and the use of extension cords in place of permanent wiring