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Nebraska Cold Storage faces $130,000 fine for ammonia exposure

By Joe Whitworth+

25-Sep-2013
Last updated on 25-Sep-2013 at 16:54 GMT

Nebraska Cold Storage has been hit with 14 safety warnings and faces more than $130,000 in fines after violations including ammonia exposure.

The citations, from the US Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), have also led to the company being placed in a Severe Violator Enforcement program.

A March inspection at the firm’s Hastings facility led to the $132,800 in proposed fines.

The firm said they had “no comment to make at this time” when contacted by FoodQualityNews.com.

The company provides storage and shipping services for the frozen, refrigerated and perishable food industries and its website says clients include Tyson Foods, ConAgra and Gibbon Packing Co.

Violations found

Four willful violations were cited, involving process safety management (PSM) violations, such as the failure to develop and implement written, safe operating and mechanical integrity procedures and measures to take for physical contact or airborne exposure to anhydrous ammonia.

Remaining violations involve failing to correct deficiencies in equipment and document responses to 2010 compliance audit findings, including 12 of 22 deficient audit items that remained uncorrected.

A total of 10 serious safety violations include failing to maintain the original ammonia refrigeration systems process hazard analysis; exposing workers to crushing hazards by failing to remove and/or repair damaged storage racks; and failing to evaluate the performance of a powered industrial truck operator every three years.

Other concerns were failing to prevent electrocution from ice buildup encasing electrical junction boxes; operating equipment within 30 inches of a fork truck charging station; and install fixed wiring and provide strain relief for power cords.

Severe Violator Enforcement program

OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program focuses on employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations.

The agency can inspect any of the employer's facilities if it has reasonable grounds to believe there are similar violations.

"Ammonia is considered a high health hazard because it can be corrosive to the skin, eyes and lungs. It is flammable at varying concentrations," said Bonita Winingham, OSHA's area director in Omaha.

"Businesses that handle hazardous materials must take precautions to protect workers from exposure to chemicals, explosions and fire hazards."

The company has 15 days from receipt of the citations to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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