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Millard Refrigerated Services fined for safety breach

Theodore, Ala, US: The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Millard Refrigerated Services in Theodore with 16 alleged safety and health violations following an incident in which 152 workers were overcome by ammonia vapours.

Proposed penalties total US$52,500 for the incident that occurred in August 2010 when anhydrous ammonia leaked out of a 12-inch pipe on the roof of the Millard Refrigerated Services facility.

Hydraulic shock within the pipe caused the leak while failure of a suction header inside the facility on one of the evaporators to a blast freezer also occurred at approximately the same time. The company became aware of the leak on the roof when a crane operator was overcome by vapours and fell down while evacuating his crane cab on board a ship that was being loaded by Millard.

The ammonia vapours also carried across the ship canal and affected adjacent sites. One hundred fifty-two workers from several companies attended hospital for ammonia vapour exposure, 31 were admitted and four placed in intensive care.

The company is cited with seven serious safety and one serious health violation with $45,500 in proposed penalties. Four of the safety violations related to the incident include failure to consider hazard analysis from previous incidents; ensure an emergency shutdown would be executed in a timely and safe manner; train workers in process safety management of highly hazardous chemicals; and investigate the contributing factors to an incident that could have resulted in a catastrophic event. Other safety violations include deficiencies with ladders, respiratory protection and emergency response. The health violation is related to a lack of respirator use and training during emergency response. A serious citation is issued 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.

Seven other-than-serious violations are being cited with $7,000 in proposed penalties for failing to properly fill out the OSHA 300 log.

An additional other-than-serious violation, with no proposed penalty, is for failing to conduct a periodic inspection of the energy control procedures. 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.