Pungent Chemical at Sorrento Cheese Plant Leads to $241K Fine

The chemical in this case was anhydrous ammonia, which is used in the plant's refrigeration system.

OSHA has cited Sorrento Lactalis Inc. for 13 alleged repeat and serious violations of workplace health and safety standards at its Buffalo, N.Y., production facility. The cheese manufacturer faces a total of $241,000 in proposed fines. An inspection by OSHA's Buffalo Area Office identified several deficiencies in the plant's process safety management program, a detailed set of requirements and procedures employers must follow to proactively address hazards associated with processes and equipment involving large amounts of hazardous chemicals. The chemical in this case was anhydrous ammonia, which is used in the plant's refrigeration system.

"The stringent and comprehensive requirements of OSHA's PSM standard are designed to prevent a catastrophic incident, such as the uncontrolled release of highly hazardous chemicals, by having employers effectively evaluate, anticipate, address, and prevent hazardous conditions associated with processes utilizing those chemicals," said Arthur Dube, OSHA's area director for western New York. "Full and effective adherence to the standard's requirements is critical to guarding the safety and health of employees."

Specifically, OSHA found a lack of procedures and tests to maintain the ongoing mechanical integrity of process equipment, no written procedures to manage changes to the equipment, incomplete written operating procedures, and a failure to document that process equipment complies with recognized and generally accepted good engineering practices. These conditions resulted in the issuance of five repeat citations with $192,500 in proposed penalties. OSHA cited Sorrento Lactalis in 2008 and 2011 for similar hazards at its Nampa, Idaho, plant.

Eight serious citations with $48,500 in proposed fines were issued for not conducting equipment inspections consistent with good engineering practices, not updating process safety information, and using an unsecured electrical cable, as well as a lack of "lockout/tagout" procedures, inspections, and training to isolate the energy sources of machinery to prevent unintended activation during maintenance work.

"One method of enhancing workers' safety is developing and maintaining an effective illness and injury prevention program in which management and employees work together to proactively identify and prevent hazardous conditions," said Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York.

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