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Chicken processor cited for dangerous ammonia gas releases

Chicken processor cited for dangerous ammonia gas releases

A major chicken producer has been cited by U.S. workplace safety regulators for exposing its workers to anhydrous ammonia hazards and is facing proposed fines of $122,500.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that Greeley, Colorado-based Pilgrim's Pride Corp. failed to use proper safety procedures, which allowed a release of 79 pounds of anhydrous ammonia and endangered workers at its Waco, Texas, facility in September 2015, the agency said Wednesday in a statement. Anhydrous ammonia is a dangerous chemical that can be fatal when inhaled and cause serious burns to the skin, according to OSHA.

The agency cited the chicken producer under its Process Safety Management Standards, which outline requirements for the management of hazards associated with processes using highly hazardous chemicals.

OSHA issued two repeat citations to Pilgrim's for failing to implement proper standard operating procedures with accurate information on safety systems and how they worked and for not completing inspections and equipment testing as scheduled or documenting them as required — with the company previously cited for similar violations at other facilities in Arkansas and Texas, according to the statement. The agency also issued two serious citations for failing to use proper methods to prevent over-pressurization and explosions in the system and for placing the control and maintenance room facilities in the engine room for ammonia refrigeration.

“Anhydrous ammonia can have devastating and lethal effects,” Jack Rector, OSHA's area director in Fort Worth, Texas, said in a statement. “Had Pilgrim's had the right processes in place, this ammonia release may have been prevented. We will continue to monitor the company's progress as they make much-needed improvements to equipment, procedures and training to keep their workers safe.”

A company spokesperson could not be immediately reached for comment.

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