Arkansas poultry plant cited for 11 safety violations

DE QUEEN - A southwest Arkansas poultry plant has been cited with 11 safetyviolations by federal safety regulators.

The plant owned by Pilgrim's Pride Corporation also faces proposed penalties from the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration totaling $170,000 for reportedly exposing workers to hazardous chemicals.

OSHA's ProcessSafety Management (PSM) Covered Chemical Facilities National Emphasis Program has a detailed set ofrequirements and procedures employers must follow to address hazardsproactively that are associated with processes and equipment that use largeamounts of hazardous chemicals. In this case, it's the use of anhydrous ammoniain the refrigeration system.

Their inspection of the De Queen plant started in January. The first $70,000 of the proposed fine comes from what inspectors found to be a willful violation by the company for not documenting that the emergency shutdown system for the engine room was designed to ensure that the mechanical ventilation system was activated by an ammonia leak.

A willfulviolation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard forthe law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

The nineserious violations, with a $61,500 fine, were cited for PSM deficiencies of therelief valves and failing to provide process hazard analysis, operatingprocedures, testing procedures and management of change procedures. A seriousviolation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or seriousphysical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew orshould have known.

Therepeat violation, with a fine of $38,500, was cited for failing to ensure theadequate frequency of self-inspections and tests of ammonia refrigerationequipment and vessels. A repeat violation exists when an employer previouslyhas been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation,rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within thelast five years. A similar violation was cited in 2011.

"Processsafety management prevents the unexpected release of toxic, reactive orflammable liquids and gases in processes involving highly hazardous chemicals,"said Carlos Reynolds, OSHA's area director in Little Rock. "It's vital thatPilgrim's Pride ensure safeguards are in place to protect the safety of workersat its work sites."

Thecitations can be viewed by clicking here and also here. The company, headquartered inGreeley, Colo., employs about 1,400 workers at the De Queen plant. It has 15business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request aninformal conference with the area director or contest the findings before theindependent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

To askquestions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplacehospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers,the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or theagency's Little Rock office at 501-224-1841.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces fortheir employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America'sworking men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providingtraining, education and assistance. For more information, visit