Oregon-based Reser’s Fine Foods is facing a fine of $71,700 for 13 alleged serious safety and health violations at its food processing facility in Topeka, Kan.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) launched an investigation into the plant after receiving a complaint about a leak of ammonia, which is used in the refrigeration process in food production facilities.
Inspectors found that about eight pounds of ammonia were released from a compressor seal leak at the facility in March 2015. The company initiated emergency evacuation procedures when the incident occurred. One employee was taken to a local medical facility for observation but was able to return to work later that day, the agency noted.
Reporting on its findings, OSHA said that eight of the serious violations involved process safety procedures which set out requirements for the management of hazards associated with processes using highly hazardous chemicals. These violations include lack of training, failing to conduct periodic evaluations of processes and update procedures, and poor record keeping.
In addition, OSHA found that 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,” commented 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.”
Reser’s Fine Foods produces a variety of fresh and frozen prepared foods. Its leading brands include Reser’s American Classics deli salads, Reser’s Sensational Sides, and Stonemill Kitchens gourmet dips.