April 9, 2010

OSHA cites Americold for Read Street leak

Inspectors issue two citations in the Jan. 22 incident that prompted a neighborhood evacuation.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — Federal workplace safety inspectors have issued two citations to Americold Logistics for a major ammonia leak at the company’s plant on Read Street on Jan. 22.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration says about 2,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia leaked when an evaporator unit fell from the ceiling. It says the unit was not in use but did have a large buildup of ice on its coils.

“The employer did not furnish ... a place of employment ... free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees,” one citation says.

The ammonia leak in the 150,000-square-foot building forced the evacuation of the adjacent neighborhood.

The citation was issued Tuesday but OSHA officials did not make the information public until Thursday because they were not sure Americold had received it.

The citation says the company could have eliminated the hazard by cutting free and capping unused equipment and avoiding excessive or abnormal ice buildup on equipment.

OSHA proposes a $7,000 fine, although companies routinely have fines lowered through negotiation. The company has until May 9 to correct related problems.

Americold also was cited for having a portable light that was not effectively grounded. That alleged infraction – corrected during the OSHA inspection – includes a penalty of $2,000.

OSHA also issued two other citations, saying the company failed to have written certification that it had assessed workplace hazards to determine whether protective equipment is required. The company also lacked written certification to show that operators of a powered industrial vehicle had been trained and evaluated on its use.

The company has until Wednesday to correct that and until April 24 to get the hazard assessment certificate. Those citations do not call for fines.

The OSHA inspections were done Jan. 22 through March 31.

An Americold spokesman could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:
dhench@pressherald.com

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