The agency reports its Lubbock District Office initiated an inspection in January under the agency's Process Safety Management (PSM) Covered Chemical Facilities National Emphasis Program (NEP). PSM involves a detailed set of requirements and procedures employers must follow to address hazards associated with processes and equipment incorporating large amounts of hazardous chemicals.
The chemical in this case was anhydrous ammonia in the packer’s refrigeration system. NEP’s intent is to conduct focused inspections at facilities randomly selected from a list of work sites that are likely to have highly hazardous chemicals in quantities covered by the standard.
OSHA reported 23 “serious” violations, resulting in a penalty of $118,000, related to PSM, electrical, confined space and lockout-tagout of hazardous energy sources and respirator protection standards. Serious PSM violations include failing to develop a written plan of action ensuring worker involvement in the PSM program; conduct inspections and tests of process equipment, such as compressors and pressure vessels; implement management-of-change procedures for the replacement of ammonia process equipment; conduct an investigation following the release of ammonia from a leaking shaft seal on a compressor; conduct incident investigations within 48 hours following ammonia vapor releases from pipes and valves; and provide workers with the appropriate respirator for chlorine and sodium hydroxide releases.
A violation is categorized as serious when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known, OSHA explains.
"Process safety management prevents the unexpected release of toxic, reactive or flammable liquids and gases in processes involving highly hazardous chemicals," said JoAnn Figueroa, OSHA's area director in El Paso. "It's vital that Caviness ensures safeguards are in place to protect its workers."
Two other-than-serious violations (violations that have a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm), carrying a penalty of $2,000, were cited for failing to ensure all workers had access to material safety data sheets for anhydrous ammonia and that they were provided adequate training and information regarding the hazards of anhydrous ammonia.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with the area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.