Beef Plant Faces Fines for Repeat Amputation, Serious Ammonia Release Hazards

OSHA has cited Creekstone Farms Premium Beef LLC of Arkansas City, Kan., for allegedly exposing workers to a potential catastrophic release of ammonia at its meat processing facility. Proposed violations total $130,000.

"The workers were not protected from the hazards of a catastrophic release of ammonia from the facility's refrigeration system," said Charles Adkins, OSHA's regional administrator in Kansas City, Mo. "There is no excuse for the company not to address this issue quickly and sufficiently to ensure the safety and health of its workers and the surrounding community."

OSHA's inspection, initiated in December 2009, found 20 alleged serious violations and one alleged repeat violation. The serious violations primarily stem from hazardous deficiencies in the company's process safety management of the ammonia refrigeration system. Violations include a lack of worker participation and training of system operators; inadequate process hazard analyses of hazardous consequences and system controls; inadequate refrigeration system operating procedures to prevent and control a catastrophic ammonia release; inadequate refrigeration system emergency procedures to respond to a catastrophic release and evacuate all plant workers; and inadequate mechanical integrity throughout the refrigeration system to prevent equipment malfunctions. An OSHA violation is serious if death or serious physical harm can result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known exists.

The repeat violation stems from a failure to provide machine guarding to protect employees from amputation hazards created by rotating and moving parts of a saw. In addition, machine guarding was not adequate for dumpers or packing machines. A repeat violation is issued when an employer previously was cited for the same or a similar violation of any standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facilities in federal enforcement states within the last three years.

The beef plant has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director in Wichita, Kan., or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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