Update | 07/27/2021
This week, OSHA cited four businesses for alleged health and safety violations
that contributed to six workers' deaths during a liquid nitrogen release in January 2021. In total, OSHA cited the employers for fifty-nine violations and issued a combined $1 million in civil penalties.
During an inspection of the Gainesville, GA poultry plant where the release occurred, OSHA inspectors uncovered twenty-six health and safety violations.
Three plant maintenance workers who were overcome by nitrogen exposure and died had never been trained
on the chemical's hazards before they entered a freezer room without adequate protection.
The company failed to perform a hazard assessment for liquid nitrogen, did not label the freezers with hazard warnings, and did not have a permit-required confined space program in place to limit entry to the freezer. Other alleged violations include obstructed egress paths and inadequate, poorly lit exit routes.
Of the four entities cited following this violation, the poultry plant faces the largest proposed civil penalty–$595,474.
Also Cited: Transporter, Equipment Manufacturer, Cleaning Service
OSHA also cited the transporter that delivered
the liquid nitrogen for six serious violations of health and safety Standards. OSHA alleges that the transportation company failed to develop and use lockout procedures and exposed workers to injuries and suffocation from uncontrolled release of liquid nitrogen.
A sanitation and cleaning services employer allegedly failed to train workers on the hazards of cryogenic liquids and emergency procedures related to liquid nitrogen and anhydrous ammonia (a repeat violation). This employer also failed to provide access to a Safety Data Sheet or SDS for liquid nitrogen, did not implement a written permit space entry program, and did not coordinate lockout procedures with the poultry plant where employees worked.
The sanitation service company faces 17 serious OSHA violations and a civil penalty of $286,720.
Lastly, an equipment manufacturing and servicing company connected to the incident faces a $42,325 civil penalty for alleged failure to provide employee training on the hazards of liquid nitrogen and the emergency procedures for releases. In addition, written lockout procedures were not properly used and shared.
The employers have 15 business days to comply, request a meeting with OSHA, or contest the violations.
OSHA's Press Release
Original Post | 02/08/2021
On February 7, US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) announced its third update
on the tragic liquid nitrogen release in a Georgia poultry plant that killed six workers and hospitalized twelve others. The latest update from CSB includes additional details about the plant’s processes and the circumstances surrounding the liquid nitrogen release.
The plant at which the incident occurred cooks, processes, and freezes poultry products to be packaged and shipped. As part of their operations, the plant uses liquid nitrogen to flash-freeze product. CSB deployed investigators to the scene on January 28.
At room temperature, liquid nitrogen converts to a colorless, odorless gas that displaces oxygen as it expands. When it becomes a gas, liquid nitrogen can expand nearly 700 times in volume. This means that even a very small amount of the substance can quickly expand and displace a great deal of oxygen.
When oxygen in an enclosed area is displaced, asphyxiation can occur and lead to unconsciousness or death. In its liquid form, LN can freeze skin tissue and cause cold burns, frostbite, and permanent tissue damage.
CSB released a statement
to update the public on February 1. The independent agency is focusing its investigation on the cryogenic freezing system and has learned that unscheduled maintenance was being conducted on the production line where the incident occurred.
The team is working with OSHA and local first responders to determine exactly where the release occurred and will provide updates as more information becomes available. CSB investigations entail interviews with knowledgeable employees, examination of evidence, and cooperation with local emergency responders.
Incident investigations can take years to complete.
What is the CSB?
The CSB's role is to investigate serious chemical accidents, identify their root causes, and recommend measures to prevent similar incidents in the future. While the Board can make recommendations to governing agencies like OSHA and US EPA, it does not have rulemaking, inspection, or enforcement powers.
Created in 1990 as part of a bill to amend the Clean Air Act, the CSB reports directly to Congress and the President of the US.