Commercial Warehousing Inc., a refrigeration company, faces fines of more than $116,100 for 13 safety violations that put its temporary and regular workers at risk.
The two staffing agencies that assigned temps were not cited, as Commercial Warehousing is in charge of managing and has direct control of the temporary workers, OSHA said.
During a safety inspection conducted in January at Commercial Warehousing’s Winter Haven, Fla. site, the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration noted one willful violation for failing to follow industry-recognized and generally accepted practices for insulation removal and for failing to test the ammonia refrigeration system’s piping and pressure vessels. Twelve serious violations were also found, such as for failing to maintain accurate and complete piping and instrument diagrams of the ammonia refrigeration systems, not completing actions items on the process safety hazard analysis and not training permanent and temporary workers on the emergency evacuation plan and alarm system for fire and ammonia releases.
“Exposure to high levels of ammonia in the air can be irritating to the skin, eyes, throat and lungs. Lung damage and death may occur after exposure to very high concentrations of ammonia,” said Les Grove, OSHA’s area director in Tampa. “Commercial Warehousing has known for several years that testing of the refrigeration piping and pressure vessels was not being done as specified in company maintenance policy but management chose to downplay the seriousness of the hazard due to cost, and in the process, risked the lives and health of its workers.”
Last week, an ammonia leak led to the death of one contract worker at a food processing plant in Canada. Two other workers, including another contractor, were injured.
Commercial Warehousing has 15 business days from receipt of the notification to comply, contest the findings or request a conference with OSHA’s area director.