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OSHA and ConAgra Agree over Worker Protection from Anhydrous Ammonia

02 July 2013

US - ConAgra Foods’ Lamb Weston subsidiary has signed a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration to protect workers at five of its plants from the release of anhydrous ammonia from refrigeration systems.

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.

"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 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 is not already 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.

The agreement is the result of an inspection conducted at the company's American Falls, Idaho, 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.

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