OSHA cites foodservice distributor for ammonia hazard

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BRAINTREE, Mass. – A small leak led to big trouble for Rosemont, Illinois-based Reinhart Foodservice LLC.

The company was cited for deficiencies in the company’s Process Safety Management program relating to the refrigeration system at a Reinhart distribution center in Taunton, Massachusetts, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reported May 9. The agency initiated an investigation into the facility in response to employee complaints.

OSHA found a check valve in a pump room at the plant leaked about 9 lbs. of anhydrous ammonia on Oct. 21, 2015. Inspectors also found the ammonia sensor in the pump room did not sound an alarm as expected.

“The leak was relatively small but the consequences could have been enormous,” said Kenneth Shedden, OSHA area director for Boston and southeastern Massachusetts. “Exposure to even as little as 300 parts per million of anhydrous ammonia is immediately dangerous to life and health. An uncontrolled release can be lethal and catastrophic.”

The inspection also revealed uncovered openings on electrical cabinets and boxes and unsecured and inadequately anchored steel commercial storage racks that could have fallen and struck or crushed employees.

OSHA cited Reinhart for six serious and two repeated violations of health standards. The company faces $72,000 in proposed penalties.

Reinhart Foodservice is the fourth-largest foodservice distributor in the United States serving independent restaurants, delis, sporting venues, schools, nursing homes, hospitals, the military and chain accounts. The company operates 29 distribution centers in the United States and a USDA-inspected fresh meat-processing plant.
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