AUSTIN, Texas -- The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Michael Angelo's Gourmet Foods Inc. for six serious safety violations of the agency's process safety management standard. The company exposed workers to chemical hazards from an ammonia release in July 2013 at its plant in Austin. Proposed penalties total $42,000.
'A process safety management program is meant to anticipate and plan for an array of failures that could cause the release of hazardous chemicals,' said Casey Perkins, OSHA's area director in Austin. 'Given the multiple deficiencies in this program, it's fortunate no serious injuries resulted.'
Process safety management encompasses a detailed set of requirements and procedures employers must follow to address hazards proactively that are associated with processes and equipment that use threshold quantities of hazardous chemicals. In this case, the majority of the violations relate to potential fire and explosion hazards, as well as potential toxic effects stemming from the release of anhydrous ammonia used in the refrigeration system at the facility. The release occurred when a nearby forklift tore loose the bottom valve and piping of an ammonia storage vessel. Ammonia is an irritating gas that, when mixtures of 16 to 25 percent are released into the air, can cause violent explosions. Emergency escape and respiratory protection must be provided to avoid inhalation of the gas.
The serious violations cited under the process safety management standard include failing to consider the layout of ammonia equipment with regard to the surrounding forklift operations when performing a process hazard analysis; renew the process hazard analysis every five years; inspect and maintain the ventilation system; conduct a compliance audit every three years; and track and complete action items from previous compliance audits. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
Michael Angelo's Gourmet Foods, which employs about 330 workers, has a long history of OSHA violations. The Austin location has been inspected seven times since 2003. Past inspections have focused on process safety management and machine guarding, energy control and confined space entry requirements. The company has settled each of the previous cases and has paid more than $279,000 in cumulative fines.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's Austin Area Office, or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's Austin Area Office at 512-374-0271.
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 working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.