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OSHA Cites Frozen Food Manufacturer for Anhydrous Ammonia PSM Violations

On March 12, 2014, OSHA cited Schwan’s Global Supply Chain Inc., for a number of alleged process safety management (PSM) violations at the company’s Atlanta facility concerning the storage and use of the industrial refrigerant anhydrous ammonia. OSHA is seeking more than $185,000 in penalties associated with the facility’s PSM and related OSHA violations.

OSHA’s PSM program is designed to prevent or minimize the consequences of catastrophic releases of toxic, reactive, flammable, or explosive chemicals. Specific allegations in the OSHA citation include:

  • Process Safety Information (PSI) and Process Hazard Analyses (PHAs) were not made available to refrigerant tech workers;
  • Inadequate PSI;
  • Inaccurate listing of relief valves (RVs)
  • Piping and instrument diagrams (P&IDs) were not up-to-date;
  • Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) were not available;
  • No annual certification of SOPs;
  • Insufficiencies in the mechanical integrity (MI) and management of change (MOC) protocols for the facility;
  • No training on safe work practices; and
  • Equipment did not comply with recognized and generally accepted good engineering practices (RAGAGEP).

Anhydrous ammonia is frequently used as a refrigerant in food production, distribution, and warehousing operations. In addition, it serves as a common farm fertilizer sold by farm supply companies, farm cooperatives (co-ops), and related agricultural businesses. In particular, companies that store more than 10,000 lbs. of anhydrous ammonia are required to comply with EPA’s Risk Management Program (RMP) regulations and OSHA’s PSM program.

Businesses with commercial refrigeration systems that use and store the refrigerant anhydrous ammonia, such as cold storage, retail grocers, wholesale food distribution, and related warehousing and transportation companies, continue to face enforcement scrutiny from OSHA and EPA.

In addition to the citations against Schwan’s, two other companies providing maintenance and staffing services for Schwan’s, including Cimco Refrigeration Inc. and Adecco USA Inc., were cited for 18 safety and health violations for a total of $78,660 in violations.