Investigation Of Deadly Ammonia Leak At Boston Warehouse Raises Safety Questions

A man died on the night of Wednesday, March 23rd as the result of a large ammonia leak in a warehouse operated by Stavis Seafoods in Boston’s Seaport District. The fatality involved a worker, one of several on site at the time. The city’s homicide unit, as well as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), were investigating the cause of the leak.

Ammonia is used at the facility for the transportation of fish. Authorities indicated that there was about 5,400 pounds of ammonia in the tank that connects to the building’s pipeline.

The South Boston seafood company where a worker died was reportedly issued thousands of dollars in fines by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) for serious violations related to how it dealt with ammonia in the facility’s refrigeration system. For example, in August 2009, the company was issued $47,250 in fines for 15 separate serious violations, chiefly in its process safety management program. The case was closed in November 2009. Serious citations mean that death or serious physical harm is likely to result from hazards the employer knew about or should have known about, according to OSHA.

Workplace safety always must be the primary concern for employers and facility owners, especially when dangerous chemicals or conditions are present. Thousands of workers hurt on the job every year, and many injuries are the result of contractors’ and management’s failure to maintain a safe jobsite. Some of these injuries are the result of defective equipment. Other injuries are the result of carelessness or negligence on the part of a general contractor or subcontractor, for example failing to properly inspect the jobsite, failing to provide safe machinery or tools, or failing to provide workers with adequate fall protection equipment.

Management must ensure that its work environment is fully in compliance with all OSHA regulations, and even exceeds such federal safety requirements when the lives of workers are at stake.

By James A. Swartz of Swartz & Swartz P.C.Permalink

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