A unit of Schwan Food Co. has been hit with a $185,700 fine and cited for 32 “serious” violations of federal work safety rules at its Atlanta plant, including chemical dangers and blocked exits in hazardous areas.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said Wednesday that Schwan’s Global Supply Chain Inc. exposed workers to dangerous conditions, many created by the company’s failure to follow federal standards on the use of ammonia, a corrosive chemical used in refrigeration systems.
In a statement, Schwan’s said it disagrees with OSHA’s findings. However, “we are taking this matter seriously, and we are working through this process with OSHA to ensure the safest environment possible for our people,” the Marshall, Minn.-based food company said.
The violations were based on an OSHA inspection in September 2013 that followed a worker’s complaint. The number of serious violations and the amount of the proposed fine are both relatively high by OSHA standards for a single inspection.
A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious injury could result from a hazard employer knew about or should have known.
The Atlanta plant, which employs almost 500 workers, produces dough, cookies and pie crusts. According to OSHA, Schwan’s employs about 14,000 nationwide. The company, known for its ice cream products and frozen pizzas, including the Red Baron brand, does about $3 billion in yearly sales.
OSHA concluded that Schwan’s failed to ensure that doors to ammonia handling machinery fit properly; failed to adequately train employees to work safely with ammonia; allowed exits in hazardous areas to be mismarked or blocked, and exposed workers to unguarded machines and damaging noise levels.
OSHA also found that temporary workers at the plant employed by the Addeco staffing agency were exposed to hazards. Adecco was cited for 12 serious safety violations carrying penalties of $58,500. Cimco, which provides maintenance for the plant’s ammonia refrigeration system, was cited for six serious safety violations carrying penalties of $20,160.
Mike Hughlett • 612-673-7003