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OSHA settles with ConAgra Food on anhydrous ammonia release

Posted on July 8th, 2013 by Dakota Software Staff

OSHA settles with ConAgra Food on anhydrous ammonia release

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has reached a settlement with ConAgra Foods regarding precautions taken over high levels of anhydrous ammonia found during an inspection at an Idaho facility. The anhydrous ammonia was found in refrigeration systems at other branches as well, and the settlement aims to protect workers at locations in Idaho, Missouri, Arkansas and Ohio.

Under the stipulations of the agreement, ConAgra will be required to provide workers ammonia safety controls, including emergency ventilation. OSHA first cited ConAgra for failing to determine whether the company was safely operating under low-pressure receivers, which are often used at food manufacturing plants. 

ConAgra now faces a $1,000 fine and will be required to safely enclose older receivers at five of its facilities across the country. In response to the decision, a ConAgra spokeswoman pointed toward the disagreement between the company and OSHA over the nature of the violations.

"While ConAgra Foods disagreed with the underlying citation and OSHA's interpretation of the standard in question, we're pleased to have resolved this matter with OSHA," the spokeswoman said. 

The inspection that sparked a full investigation of the company took place at the company's American Falls, Idaho potato processing facility in 2010. It was one of many inspections that came as part of OSHA's PSM Covered Chemical Facilities National Emphasis Program, which was created to reduce workplace dangers related to the release of hazardous chemicals. 

The program requires workplace compliance with national safety guidelines, with the ultimate goal of eliminating high levels of exposure to dangerous substances in manufacturing facilities.

Acute exposure to anhydrous ammonia can result in serious burns to the skin, eyes and lungs, while lengthy exposure can result in suffocation.

Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels explained the reasoning behind the fines.

"OSHA's corporate-wide settlement agreements are highly effective tools for ensuring that companies take a systemic approach to addressing hazards that can injure or kill their workers," Michaels said.

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