Lack of Safety Plans is a Factor in Workers' Exposure to Ammonia

OSHA issued 15 serious citations to Reddy Ice of East Point, Ga., and proposed $57,200 in total penalties following an investigation of a July 24 ammonia release that sent four workers to the hospital.

On the day of the incident, employees at the ice manufacturing facility had finished changing electrical controls on a compressor and were in the process of restarting the motor when a buildup of pressure in the compressor caused a valve to rupture, blowing metal parts and ammonia into the air.

"This accident could have been avoided if the company had followed requirements of the process safety management standard and conducted a safety review before making modifications to the compressor," said Andre Richards, OSHA's Atlanta-West area director.

In 1992, OSHA issued the standard to protect employees from the hazards associated with certain chemicals, such as ammonia. This regulation requires companies to develop, implement and update plans analyzing potential risks, outline procedures to minimize those factors and properly train employees on how to avoid exposure.

OSHA cited the company for failing to have an emergency action plan, failing to conduct a safety review before beginning modifications to equipment and failing to have an air pressure gauge on the compressed air receiver. The company was also cited for failing to have written programs for process safety management, respiratory protection, confined space entry and hazard communication. All of these programs require that employees receive appropriate training.

A serious citation is issued when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.

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