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OSHA Fines Food Processing Plant $71K

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Wichita area office cited Reser's Fine Foods, Topeka, KS, for 13 serious safety and health violations.

OSHA opened an investigation at the company, after receiving a complaint about an ammonia leak. Ammonia is used in the refrigeration process in food production facilities. Inspectors found that about eight pounds of ammonia were released March 3, 2015, from a compressor seal leak at the facility. Emergency evacuation procedures were initiated. One employee was taken to a local medical facility for observation but was able to return to work later that day.

Eight of the serious violations involved OSHA's process safety procedures which contain requirements for the management of hazards associated with processes using highly hazardous chemicals. These include lack of training, failing to conduct periodic evaluations of processes and update procedures, and poor record keeping. OSHA also found the company failed to properly mark doors for emergency exit and did not adequately protect workers from operating machinery parts during service and maintenance.

"Ammonia can cause immediate damage to skin, eyes, and lungs," said Judy Freeman, OSHA's area director in Wichita. "Refrigeration is essential in the food industry, but the dangers of ammonia in the workplace are entirely preventable if employers follow the right procedures."

OSHA proposed penalties of $71,700.

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