The California Division of OSHA (Cal/OSHA) has issued an alert informing employers on steps to prevent injury or death from the use of ethylene gas in the produce-ripening industry.
Ethylene gas is used to ripen fruit such as apples, bananas and berries.
In a recent accident at Pan American Banana Co., Los Angeles, one employee was fatally injured and another critically injured by an explosion that occurred inside a tightly enclosed room where ethylene gas was being used to ripen fruit.
Five other employees were injured in the blast.
"We know that loss of life can be prevented if employers take appropriate safety precautions," said Division Chief John Howard.
Cal/OSHA is advising that the following precautions be followed:
- Only experienced workers should be permitted to use ethylene gas ripening equipment.
- Train employees to recognize and report unsafe conditions in their immediate work environment.
- Electrically ground all equipment when using ethylene gas.
- Keep ethylene gas away from flames, sparks or other sources of ignition.