Ammonia and other hazardous chemicals are essential to certain industries, but facilities handling large amounts are constantly at risk for leaks, spills and other forms of harmful exposure.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) developed a specific set of rules called Process Safety Management (PSM) to govern the use of harmful chemicals in the workplace. The directions require management to âproactively assess and address [workplace] hazardsâ when the facility handles dangerous chemicals on a regular basis.
OSHA cited Brooklyn ice maker Arctic Glacier USA for numerous health and safety violations after an inspection in March. The facility received 19 total citations during OSHAâs assessment, many of which were related to PSM violations for how the facility handled ammonia.
Ammonia is commonly used in industrial refrigeration facilities or breweries to keep products cold. As a gas, the chemical is toxic and corrosive to the eyes, skin and respiratory system. Ammonia gas is also highly flammable if it reaches an ignition source, so leaks can lead to fires or explosions.
How Do I Prevent Workplace Accidents?
Keeping tanks, fuel lines and other equipment in good working order is one of the first steps to preventing a disaster, according to PSM guidelines. Unfortunately, management at the Artic Glacier facility failed to document equipment inspections and mandatory testing, meaning they would be unaware of any potential problems until it was too late.
Another important aspect of PSM is developing an emergency plan for leaks and spills. OSHA reports that the ice manufacturer failed to develop any such plan, leaving workers completely unprepared for a catastrophic event.
To make matters worse, the facility lacked required exit routes and failed to train employees in emergency response. In fact, employees were hardly trained in PSM at all, even though they faced the highest risk of exposure.
Symptoms of Ammonia Exposure
Ammonia gas can be toxic if inhaled or ingested in large amounts, and skin exposure could cause painful irritation similar to frostbite. Employers are responsible for teaching workers how to protect themselves, or they risk being held liable when the worker gets injured.
Emergency procedures may seem tedious or unnecessary, but they can save lives during a crisis. If management fails to provide a plan, workers could be injured or even killed during a calamity.
[Did You Know: Process Safety Management guidelines only apply to facilities handling more than 10,000 pounds of hazardous chemicals.]
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