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New England Confectionery Company Inc., also known as Necco, is facing $133,000 in fines for 19 serious violations of workplace health and safety standards at its Revere, MA, production plant, said officials at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

The manufacturer of Necco Wafers, Clark Bars and other candies faces the fines in connection with the release of 8,000 pounds of ammonia from the plant’s refrigeration system Oct. 5.

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Inspections by OSHA’s Andover Area Office identified several shortfalls in the plant’s process safety management program under which the plant must proactively analyze, address and minimize potentially catastrophic hazards associated with the use of large amounts of ammonia in its refrigeration system.

Necco failed to develop safe operating procedures for the refrigeration system; did not adequately inspect and have adequate preventive maintenance procedures for machinery, piping and storage vessels used in the refrigeration system; and did not update procedures and inform workers of changes to the refrigeration process, its equipment and management, OSHA said.

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“This was a serious and preventable incident that could have resulted in the loss of human life,” said Jeffrey Erskine, OSHA’s area director for Middlesex and Essex counties. “The fact that none of the plant’s workers were injured does not relieve this employer of its responsibility to establish and maintain a complete, effective and fully functioning program to anticipate, analyze, identify and correct problems, so that an ammonia release doesn’t occur in the first place.”

In addition, OSHA found the plant did not have or implement an emergency response plan for employees who responded to the ammonia release, workers did not have training to use fire extinguishers and an unsuitable motor ended up used in a hazardous area where combustible dust was present. 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.

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