Russell Stover Candies has received citations from the United States Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for an incident in September that closed a manufacturing plant in Iola, Kan. for more than two hours.
The incident occurred on Sept. 23, 2015, when an air-conditioning unit pipe failed and released 22 lbs. of anhydrous ammonia into the air. No workers were injured.
OSHA investigated the incident and cited the company with three repeat, 14 serious, and two other-than-serious safety violations. On March 31, OSHA also proposed penalties of $193,600 and placed Russell Stover on its Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
"Russell Stover Candies did receive the OSHA notice of citation based on a September 2015 incident at our plant in Iola, Kansas and a subsequent inspection conducted by OSHA," says David Shapland, cfo, Russell Stover Candies. "Employee and consumer safety have been, and will continue to be, vital to Russell Stover Candies. We are presently reviewing the OSHA allegations and will work with the regulators to ensure all necessary actions are taken to protect our employees and our product."
The violations involve OSHA's process safety management standards, which contain requirements for the management processes using highly hazardous chemicals. Ammonia can be a health hazard due to its corrosive nature. It can harm the skin, eyes and lungs. It is a flammable vapor that can be fatal if inhaled.
"When highly hazardous chemicals are not properly controlled, there is a potential for an accidental release at any time, which could result in a tragedy," says Judy Freeman, OSHA's area director in Wichita. "Employers, such as Russell Stover, who use ammonia and other hazardous chemicals in their production process need to comply with recognized engineering practices, test equipment and train workers on safe operating procedures."
The company has 15 business days from the receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.