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The De Queen poultry processing plant owned by Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. is facing $170,000 in fines for 11 safety violations for exposing workers to hazardous chemicals, said officials at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

The inspection, which began in January, fell under the agency’s Process Safety Management Covered Chemical Facilities National Emphasis Program. PSM encompasses a detailed set of requirements and procedures employers must follow to address hazards proactively associated with processes and equipment that use large amounts of hazardous chemicals. In this case, it’s the use of anhydrous ammonia in the refrigeration system.

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The Greeley, CO-based company employs 1,400 workers at the De Queen plant.

A willful violation, with a $70,000 fine, was for failing to document the emergency shutdown system for the engine room had a design to ensure the mechanical ventilation system would activate if there was an ammonia leak. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

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The nine serious violations, with a $61,500 fine, were for PSM deficiencies of the relief valves and failing to provide process hazard analysis, operating procedures, testing procedures and management of change procedures. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

The repeat violation, with a fine of $38,500, was for failing to ensure the adequate frequency of self-inspections and tests of ammonia refrigeration equipment and vessels. A repeat violation exists when an employer previously faced citations for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. The company received a similar violation in 2011.

“Process safety management prevents the unexpected release of toxic, reactive or flammable liquids and gases in processes involving highly hazardous chemicals,” said Carlos Reynolds, OSHA’s area director in Little Rock. “It’s vital that Pilgrim’s Pride ensure safeguards are in place to protect the safety of workers at its work sites.”

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