Frozen Food Maker Safety Fines

Thursday, January 23, 2014 @ 06:01 PM gHale

Michael Angelo’s Gourmet Foods Inc. is facing $42,000 in fines for six serious safety violations of the agency’s process safety management standard for exposing workers to chemical hazards from an ammonia release in July 2013 at its plant in Austin, TX, said Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) officials.

“A process safety management program is meant to anticipate and plan for an array of failures that could cause the release of hazardous chemicals,” said Casey Perkins, OSHA’s area director in Austin. “Given the multiple deficiencies in this program, it’s fortunate no serious injuries resulted.” Michael Angelo’s Gourmet Foods employs 330 workers.

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Process safety management encompasses a detailed set of requirements and procedures employers must follow to address hazards proactively associated with processes and equipment that use threshold quantities of hazardous chemicals.

In this case, the majority of the violations relate to potential fire and explosion hazards, as well as potential toxic effects stemming from the release of anhydrous ammonia used in the refrigeration system at the facility. The release occurred when a nearby forklift tore loose the bottom valve and piping of an ammonia storage vessel. Ammonia is an irritating gas that, when mixtures of 16 to 25 percent release into the air, can cause violent explosions. Emergency escape and respiratory protection must available to avoid inhalation of the gas.

The serious violations cited under the process safety management standard include failing to consider the layout of ammonia equipment with regard to the surrounding forklift operations when performing a process hazard analysis; renew the process hazard analysis every five years; inspect and maintain the ventilation system; conduct a compliance audit every three years; and track and complete action items from previous compliance audits. 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.

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