Seafood Processor Cited by OSHA Following Deadly Ammonia Leak

Stavis Seafoods Inc. cited for 20 serious violations of workplace safety and health standards, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

A Boston seafood processor neglected industry and OSHA safety standards, according to the United States Department of Labor (DoL), resulting in 20 “serious violations.”

On March 23, 2016, Stavis Seafoods Inc. employee Brian Caron died on the job when he was overcome by an ammonia leak caused by a burst pipe in the machine shop. An OSHA inspection determined the deficient design and lack of proper operation and maintenance of the shop’s ammonia refrigeration system and equipment exposed Caron and other employees to a “catastrophic release” of ammonia.

According to the DoL, Stavis Seafoods failed to ensure proper containment of ammonia within the machine room and there were large floor holes and no door separating the machine room and a maintenance/storage room. The wholesaler also failed to test and calibrate ammonia sensors following manufacturer’s recommendations, establish and implement an adequate pressure vessel inspection schedule, properly label ammonia piping and provide a sufficient ventilation system to prevent possible combustion or explosion of ammonia vapors caused by an ammonia release.

The investigation also found the machine room alarm system wasn’t working, and Stavis Seafoods failed to adequately train plant employees in emergency evacuation procedures. Additionally, OSHA’s inspection identified numerous other conditions that exposed employees to hazards, ranging from insufficiently guarded door openings to an incomplete inventory of hazardous chemicals used in the workplace.

"The company's failure to follow industry and OSHA standards exposed its employees to the hazards of an ammonia release as well as falls, electric shock, hazardous chemicals and delayed or obstructed exit from the facility during a leak or other emergency,” James Mulligan, OSHA's acting area director for Boston and southeastern Massachusetts, said in a news release. “It's clear that Stavis Seafoods must take effective action to correct these hazards and prevent their recurrence so that no other employees are harmed on the job."

OSHA cited Stavis Seafoods Inc. for 20 “serious violations of safety and health standards.” OSHA has proposed fines totaling $173,168.

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