Safety Fines for Candy Plant

Wednesday, April 6, 2016 @ 11:04 AM gHale


As alarms sounded, hundreds of workers evacuated a candy manufacturing plant when an air-conditioning unit pipe failed and released about 22 pounds of anhydrous ammonia into the air throughout the Iola, Kansas, facility.

While no workers sustained an injury, the incident closed the plant for more than two hours.

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As a result of the leak, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigated the Sept. 23 incident at Russell Stover Candies Inc.’s Kansas facility and cited the company with three repeat, 14 serious and two other-than-serious safety violations.

The company is now facing a fine of $193,600 and ended up placed on OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

The violations involve OSHA’s process safety management standards which contain requirements for the management processes using highly hazardous chemicals. One such chemical is anhydrous ammonia, widely used as a refrigerant in industrial facilities. Ammonia can be a health hazard because it is corrosive to the skin, eyes and lungs. It is a flammable vapor, and can be fatal if inhaled.

“When highly hazardous chemicals are not properly controlled there is a potential for an accidental release at any time which could result in a tragedy,” said Judy Freeman, OSHA’s area director in Wichita. “Employers, such as Russell Stover, who use ammonia and other hazardous chemicals in their production process need to comply with recognized engineering practices, test equipment and train workers on safe operating procedures.”

Headquartered in Kansas City, MO, Russell Stover Candies is one of the nation’s oldest chocolate companies. The Lindt & Sprüngli Group, a German-based candy manufacturer of the Lindt, Whitman’s and Ghirardelli brands, owns Russell Stover Candies.