Food Warehouse Avoids Potential for Catastrophic Incident

OSHA says Unicold Corp. put workers at risk in ‘death trap’

Unicold Corp. has agreed to make health and safety improvements at its refrigerated food warehouse in Honolulu after two years of litigation to correct dozens of hazards that might have had catastrophic effects on its workers and the surrounding community, according to a news release from the DOL.

A join inspection by OSHA and Hawaii’s Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, Occupational Safety and Health Division found nearly every exit door or route locked, sealed shut, blocked or impossible to use. The inspection also identified hazards related to Unicold’s use of ammonia as a refrigerant.

"Unicold's use of toxic chemicals such as ammonia created hazards, and also placed workers in danger by blocking virtually every emergency exit to gain additional storage space," said Barbara Goto, acting OSHA regional administrator in San Francisco. "This could have had devastating consequences in a building evacuation, which was a possibility."

After Unicold contested the citations, OSHA took all the actions necessary to force the warehouse operator to remedy the serious violations it found. Its pursuit included two years of court filings before the company agreed to make changes and accept its financial penalties.

"The department will not allow Unicold or other employers to allow dangerous conditions that put workers in a potential death trap," said Janet Herold, the department's regional solicitor in San Francisco. "Luck is the only reason that we are not investigating a multi-fatality disaster here. The agency will spend time and resources to protect workers and prevent the intolerable and unacceptable from happening."

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