AUSTIN, Texas – Michael Angelo's Gourmet Foods Inc. has been cited by the US Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for six serious safety violations of the agency's process safety management standard. The company allegedly exposed workers to chemical hazards from an ammonia leak in July 2013 at its plant in Austin. Proposed penalties total $42,000.

"A process safety management program is meant to anticipate and plan for an array of failures that could cause the release of hazardous chemicals," said Casey Perkins, OSHA's area director in Austin. "Given the multiple deficiencies in this program, it's fortunate no serious injuries resulted."

OSHA explains that process safety management encompasses a detailed set of requirements and procedures employers must follow to address hazards proactively that are associated with processes and equipment that use threshold quantities of hazardous chemicals. In this case, most of the violations relate to potential fire and explosion hazards, as well as potential toxic effects stemming from the release of anhydrous ammonia used in the refrigeration system at the facility.

The ammonia release occurred when a forklift accidentally tore the bottom valve and piping of an ammonia storage vessel. The serious violations cited under the process safety management standard include failing to consider the layout of ammonia equipment with regard to the surrounding forklift operations when performing a process hazard analysis; renew the process hazard analysis every five years; inspect and maintain the ventilation system; conduct a compliance audit every three years; and track and complete action items from previous compliance audits.

Michael Angelo's Gourmet Foods, which employs about 330 workers, has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's Austin Area Office, or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.