Pilgrim's Pride faces penalties for endangering workers at Waco facility

Posted at 2:32 PM, Mar 30, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-30 23:54:28-04

Inspectors found that Pilgrim’s, which is part of the Pilgrim's Pride corporation, released 79 pounds of anhydrous ammonia and endangered workers at its Waco facility because of failure to use proper safety procedures.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation for two repeat and two serious violations under its Process Safety Management Standards. The company faces penalties of $122,500.

Anhydrous ammonia is a dangerous chemical that can be fatal when inhaled and can cause burns to the skin.

“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.”

According to Rector, OSHA inspectors went to the Pilgrim's plant in Waco after receiving a referral from the National Response Center in October. Pilgrim's reported to the NRC the release of 79 pounds of ammonia.

Inspectors said they found deficiency in the process safety design to prevent overpressurization of the system, which can cause a release of ammonia or an explosion of the lines or the system due to the high pressure. Rector said there is a risk for serious injury or a fatality if someone is working in the area where the ammonia was released. 

OSHA also cited Pilgrim's for having the control room and maintenance room facilities in the engine room for ammonia refrigeration. Rector said if employees are in those rooms and there is a release of ammonia, employees would immediately be exposed to the chemical. 

Some of the citations the company received were repeat violations that occurred at other plants. Those repeat violations included not having a visual and audible alarm at the entrances to the engine room. Rector said there must be an alarm system to notify employees if there is a leak inside of the engine room.

In addition, Pilgrim's was cited for not having the equipment testing completed or documented, as required. 

Rector said no one was injured or sent to the hospital due to the ammonia release at the Waco plant.  

Pilgrim's can either pay a penalty, contest the fine, or set up a meeting with OSHA to provide them with information and corrective actions to the findings. 

Pilgrim’s is the world’s second-largest chicken producer. It processes more than 34 million birds per week and more than 7 billion pounds of live chicken annually.

If you need to ask questions or report situations posing imminent danger to workers, call OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency’s Fort Worth Area Office at 817-581-7303.

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