The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Wayne Farms for allegedly exposing employees to hazardous chemicals at its poultry processing facility in Laurel, Mississippi.

The company faces up to $119,341 in penalties.

According to a press release from OSHA, on January 27, 2019, 12 employees needed transport to nearby hospitals after a leak caused the release of 2,100 pounds of anhydrous ammonia. OSHA cited the company for failing to provide an operable alarm responsible for indicating the release of hazardous chemicals.

OSHA also cited Wayne Farms for allegedly failing to:

  • Equip an ammonia refrigeration system with a pressure relief device as referenced by the manufacturer’s operating manual;
  • Train technicians to use an alternative over-pressure safety procedure to prevent pipes from rupturing and releasing anhydrous ammonia;
  • Perform a management of change procedure to determine the effects of removing safety relief devices from all condensers;
  • Make available medical surveillance for response team members exposed to hazardous substances above the permissible exposure limits;
  • Inspect Level B respiratory protection equipment; and
  • Provide a medical evaluation to determine each employee’s ability to use a respirator.

At the time of the incident, Jones County Emergency Management Agency Executive Director told WDAM that Wayne Farms followed proper safety protocols once the leak occurred.

OSHA conducted the inspection in conjunction with the Regional Emphasis Program for Poultry Processing Facilities and Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals National Emphasis Program.

“When employers fail to properly manage and control highly hazardous chemicals, the potential exists for unintentional releases that can result in serious and fatal injuries,” said OSHA Area Director Courtney Bohannon in Jackson, Mississippi. “OSHA encourages employers to reach out to their local OSHA office for assistance in identifying and mitigating hazards that unnecessarily put their employees in harm’s way. Call 800-321-OSHA to find the local OSHA office.”

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed 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.