The nation’s largest chicken producer, Pilgrim’s Pride, failed to use proper safety procedures that allowed a release of 79 pounds of anhydrous ammonia and endangered workers at its Waco, TX, facility on Sept. 28, said officials at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Anhydrous ammonia is a dangerous chemical that can be fatal when inhaled and cause serious burns to the skin.
OSHA cited Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation for two repeat and two serious violations under its Process Safety Management Standards. The company faces fines of $122,500.
“Anhydrous ammonia can have devastating and lethal effects,” said Jack Rector, OSHA’s area director in Fort Worth. “Had Pilgrim’s had the right processes in place, this ammonia release may have been prevented. We will continue to monitor the company’s progress as they make much-needed improvements to equipment, procedures and training to keep their workers safe.”
OSHA issued the two repeat citations to Pilgrim’s for failing to implement proper standard operating procedures with accurate information on safety systems and how they worked. The company’s process hazard analysis failed to address issues in the plant. This analysis identifies potential hazards associated with the processing of highly hazardous chemicals. Inspectors also found the company’s inspections and equipment testing were not completed as scheduled or documented as required. The agency cited Pilgrim’s for the same or similar violations at its plants in in Nacogdoches in February 2015 and in De Queen, Arkansas, in July 2013.
The agency also issued serious citations for failing to use proper methods to prevent over-pressurization and explosions in the system, and for placing the control and maintenance room facilities in the engine room for ammonia refrigeration.
Headquartered in Greeley, Colorado, Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation is the world’s second largest chicken producer, and the largest in the U.S. It can process more than 34 million birds per week, or more than 7 billion pounds of live chicken annually. Pilgrim’s operates in 12 U.S. states as well as in Mexico and Puerto Rico with more than 35,000 employees, 100 of them work in Waco.