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American Seafoods' New Bedford, Massachusetts processing facility has been cited for several violations. (Map: Stock File)

Seafood firm cited for 15 health and safety violations

  (UNITED STATES, 7/16/2010)

American Seafoods International LLC has been cited for 15 alleged violations of safety and health standards at its New Bedford, Massachusetts, processing facility by the US Department of Labour's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The proposed fines amount to USD 279,000, mainly for deficiencies in its process safety management (PSM) programme.

A PSM entails a thorough set of standards and procedures employers must follow to proactively tackle hazards pertaining to processes and equipment using big amounts of hazardous chemicals. The Bedford plant's refrigeration system contained anhydrous ammonia.

"The process hazardous analysis was inappropriate and incomplete," said Ted Fitzgerald, spokesman for the US Department of Labour.

The inspection began on 12 January, he informed. The citations were issued on 7 July, reports South Coast Today.

The plant's PSM programme was incomplete, lacked operating processes and did not provide for sufficient inspections of process equipment, OSHA found in its examination. These findings led to three willful citations with USD 195,000 in proposed fines.

"The requirements of OSHA's PSM standard are stringent and comprehensive because an ammonia leak could have a severe or catastrophic effect on the plant's workers," said Brenda Gordon, OSHA's area director for Boston and southeastern Massachusetts.

"In this case, American Seafoods International knew that aspects of its PSM program were incomplete or inadequate and did not take steps to address those deficiencies. It is imperative that this employer scrutinize, update and properly maintain each element of the process to minimize hazards and protect its workers' safety and health," she added.

The inspection found other PSM hazards, which resulted in 12 serious citations and USD 84,000 in proposed fines. The conditions included a failure to update process safety data, run an incident investigation of a January 2001 ammonia leak, certify or assess the PSM programme every three years as needed, set up and apply procedures to uphold changes in the process and offer and document employee training.

"The report seems centered on process safety documentation regarding our ammonia freezers," said American Seafoods President John Cummings.

"After we have had the opportunity to review the details, and particularly comparing it to prior OSHA inspections of the same facility, we look forward to cooperatively discussing the notifications with OSHA and continuing to ensure that our facilities meet or exceed all regulatory standards."

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to obey, meet with OSHA or challenge the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

American Seafoods International is of the brand name American Pride Seafoods and employs some 200 workers in its Bedford plant.

By Natalia Real
[email protected]

Information of the company:
Address: 2025 First Avenue, Suite 900
City: Seattle
State/ZIP: Washington (WA 98121)
Country: United States
Phone: +1 206 374 1515
Fax: +1 206 374 1516
E-Mail: [email protected]
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