The U.S. Department of Labor has proposed new fines stemming from an ammonia leak at a Foundation Foods Group processing plant in Gainesville, Ga. This leak came weeks after a liquid nitrogen leak caused the deaths of six plant employees. Earlier this week, it was announced that Gainesville poultry processor Gold Creek Foods had entered into an agreement to acquire the assets of Foundation Food Group.
The full Labor Department statement is as follows:
On Jan. 28, 2021, an uncontrolled release of liquid nitrogen at a Gainesville poultry processing facility claimed the lives of six workers. Less than two months later, workers were again subjected to a chemical release at the plant, after an ammonia leak on March 11.
A U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation identified 23 safety and health violations at the facility. OSHA cited Foundation Food Group Inc. for exposing workers to dermal and respiratory hazards associated with the potential unexpected release of anhydrous ammonia and for failing to install a system that protected employees.
In addition, OSHA found Foundation Food Group failed to:
- Guard horizontal shafts on conveyors, which exposed workers to caught-in hazards.
- Provide adequate training and ensure workers used locks to isolate hazardous energy while servicing conveyors.
- Label electrical breakers, cover unused openings in electrical boxes, and use electrical devices as designed, which exposed workers to electrical-shock hazards.
- Provide fall protection while working from equipment at heights over 4 feet.
- Require employees use eye protection while working with compressed air.
- Provide adequate hearing protection, testing, and training for employees exposed to high levels of noise.
- Maintain drainage in areas of wet processes, exposing employees to slip hazards.
The agency proposed $154,674 in penalties.
“There is no situation where employees should be expected to risk serious injury or death, especially on the heels of a tragic incident that took the lives of six co-workers,” said Acting Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Jim Frederick. “Foundation Food Group has again flouted their responsibility to assess workplace hazards and ensure measures are taken to protect employees. This is unacceptable and OSHA will continue its mission to hold employers accountable.”
Foundation Food Group Inc. provides fully cooked and precooked poultry products to food service and retail clients, and national restaurant chains.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s workers by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.