$1M Fine Proposed Over Nitrogen Leak That Killed 6

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Federal workplace safety officials proposed fines of nearly $1 million to four companies in January after they found they could have prevented the deaths of six workers from a liquid nitrogen leak at a poultry factory in Gainesville, Ga.

Foundation Food Group, a Gainesville-based poultry processing company, and Messer of Bridgewater, NJ, an industrial gas company that installed the liquid nitrogen freezing system at the facility, “failed to implement any of the necessary safety procedures to prevent a nitrogen leak or the lives of workers who interfered with it. equipping it with knowledge and equipment that can save money,” he said. an idiom on Friday.

The agency is located in Albertville, Ala., which manufactures equipment and provides mechanical service, with Packers Sanitation Services in Kieler, Wis., which provides cleaning and sanitation services at the facility. They offered to pay a total of $998,637 in violations and penalties.

Foundation Food Group would pay $595,474, the largest amount after citing 26 violations, including intentional violations to expose workers to thermal injury and suffocation hazards resulting from the uncontrolled release of liquid nitrogen. Packers Sanitation Services faces the next largest penalty, $286,720.

The proposed penalties came after a freezer at the Foundation Food Group facility malfunctioned on January 28, releasing colorless, odorless liquid nitrogen into the air, which replaced the oxygen in the room, the agency said.

Three of the facility’s maintenance workers, who had never been trained in the deadly effects of nitrogen exposure, entered the freezer and were quickly overcome, the agency said. All three died immediately.

Other workers entered the room and they too were defeated. Two of these workers died immediately, and the sixth died on the way to the hospital. At least a dozen others were also injured, the agency said.

Hall County Sheriff’s Office said of the six workers who died, Jose DeJesus Elias-Cabrera, 45; Corey Alan Murphy, 35; Nelly Perez-Rafael, 28; Saulo Suarez-Bernal, 41; Victor Vellez, 38; and Edgar Vera-Garcia, 28.

Their deaths opened a deep well of pain and grief in Gainesville. the self-proclaimed chicken capital of the world. The city of 43,000 people is about 40 percent Latino.

“Six deaths and injuries to at least a dozen others could have been completely prevented,” said Martin J. Walsh, secretary of labor. “Ultimately, no one should go to work wondering if they’ll be back home at the end of the day, and the Department of Labor is determined to hold bad actors accountable.”

Attorney Shelly Anand, who represents some of the workers at the plant at the time of the nitrogen leak, said the penalties “feel really small and insignificant” as they are fines that only OSHA can impose. with lid.

“Overall, OSHA has done everything it has legal capacities to do,” he said. “We need to let Congress take action and the penalties for intentional violations to be higher.”

Companies have 15 business days from receipt of their citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with the agency’s regional director, or challenge the findings before an independent agency. Occupational Health and Safety Investigation Commission.

Foundation Food Group did not immediately respond to messages on Friday. A woman at FSGroup who answered the phone said she had no one to comment.

Packers Sanitation Services said its employees were not at the facility at the time of the leak and “were not involved in any way in this tragic event”.

“We are also not involved in the operation or mechanical maintenance of this equipment,” the company said. “As we cooperate with OSHA during the review, we fundamentally disagree with these citations and plan to challenge them.”

Messer, which has 70 manufacturing sites and approximately 5,400 employees in North and South America, said it had reviewed the quotes and “is not making any further comment on them at this time.”

The company said it was cooperating with federal investigators and was “committed to learning from the investigations into this tragic incident and doing its part to prevent it from happening again.”

Messer said that when installing cryogenic freezing equipment, he worked with customers on how to operate and maintain the equipment safely and prepare the equipment for sanitation.

Messer said that customers are responsible for the operation and maintenance of cryogenic freezing equipment after installation, but can provide technical support.

Messer also said he recommends safety measures for indoor nitrogen-powered workers to control nitrogen hazards, including atmospheric monitoring and the use of personal oxygen detectors.

Due to the wrongful death and injury lawsuits filed against the company, “We cannot comment further at this time, but we are committed to each investigation and our shared goal of discerning the cause of this tragic accident.”

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