Chicken producer Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. has been accused of serious safety violations and faces a fine of $122,500.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said last week that the company’s plant in Waco, Texas, failed to use proper safety procedures, resulting in a release of 79 pounds of anhydrous ammonia and endangering workers on Sept. 28, 2015.
Anhydrous ammonia can be fatal when inhaled and can cause serious burns to the skin.
Following an investigation, OSHA issued citations to Pilgrim’s for two repeat and two serious violations under its Process Safety Management Standards.
The repeat citations concerned the employer’s alleged failure to implement proper standard operating procedures with accurate information on safety systems and how they worked. The company’s process hazard analysis did not address issues in the plant, OSHA said.
Inspectors also found that inspections and equipment testing at the facility were not completed as scheduled or documented as required.
The agency previously cited Pilgrim’s for the same or similar violations at its plants in Nacogdoches, Texas, in February 2015 and in De Queen, Arkansas, in July 2013.
Additionally, OSHA issued 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,” said Jack Rector, OSHA’s area director in Fort Worth. “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.”
Pilgrim’s was given 15 working days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, request a conference with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings.