ConAgra Foods Inc. has signed a settlement agreement with OSHA to protect workers from the release of anhydrous ammonia from refrigeration systems at five of its Lamb Weston Inc. facilities, where a number of products - including Arby's Curly Fries – are manufactured.
The agreement protects workers at Idaho, Arkansas, Missouri and Ohio facilities of the Nebraska-based company. It requires ConAgra to implement controls to reduce hazards associated with release of ammonia from low pressures receivers (LPRs). Among other products, Lamb Weston manufacturers Arby's Seasoned Curly Fries.
“This agreement ensures that ConAgra will protect workers from releases of ammonia by enclosing older LPRs that were not already enclosed, and by providing other controls such as normal and emergency ventilation to prevent exposure,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “OSHA’s corporate-wide settlement agreements are highly effective tools for ensuring that companies take a systemic approach to addressing hazards that can injure or kill their workers.”
OSHA’s Process Safety Management standard requires employers to document that equipment that was designed to meet codes and standards no longer in general use is still safe to operate under OSHA standards. OSHA originally cited ConAgra for failing to determine whether these older LPRs were being operated safely.
Under the agreement, ConAgra will pay a $1,000 fine and will implement administrative and engineering controls at the covered LPRs to control hazards associated with the release of ammonia. This includes building enclosures around equipment that currently is not enclosed. Each enclosure must include normal and emergency ventilation that meets specified requirements, automatic switches for both normal and emergency ventilation and ammonia detection alarms. Egress doors for the enclosures will be required to include panic hardware and to swing in the direction of egress.
A spokesperson for ConAgra Foods said while the company "disagreed with the underlying citation and OSHA's interpretation of the standard in question," it is happy the matter has been resolved. “ConAgra Foods and our Lamb Weston business are committed to providing a safe and secure work environment that protects and promotes employee safety,” said the spokesperson, who added the company's safety measures regarding anhydrous ammonia now exceed those required by OSHA.
The agreement is the result of an inspection conducted at the company’s American Falls, Idaho, potato processing facility, initiated under OSHA’s PSM Covered Chemical Facilities National Emphasis Program, established to reduce or eliminate the workplace hazards associated with the catastrophic release of highly hazardous chemicals. Anhydrous ammonia is not explosive like ammonium nitrate, but exposure can result in severe burns to skin, eyes and lungs, and prolonged exposure can cause suffocation.