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Workplace injury: Plant manager fails to respond to ammonia leak

Oklahoma employees of companies with industrial refrigeration facilities may be exposed to the hazards of ammonia, a common industrial refrigerant. Exposure to ammonia can cause workplace injury in the form of extreme eye and skin irritations. At particularly high concentrations, it can cause fluid accumulation in the lungs and asphyxiation. Emergency systems must be in place to vent any ammonia leaks out of buildings, along with devices to monitor any leaks.

An ammonia leak at a food plant in another state recently raised concern, not because workers were injured, but about the severity of potential consequences had a worker from a neighboring business not called 911. What was puzzling was the fact that an independent company monitors the refrigeration systems at the facility, and a call was allegedly made to the plant manager when the system picked up the leak. However, that person failed to respond, and fire fighters rushed to the business when a call was received from a person not connected to the company.

Reportedly, the fire fighters received the alarm at about 5 a.m., and after repeated entries into the toxic atmosphere of the building, hazmat workers ultimately located the leak. It was suspected that a malfunctioning valve was the culprit. Once it was isolated, the leak was stopped by 9:30 a.m. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration will reportedly be investigating this potentially disastrous incident.

Workers in Oklahoma and other states have the right to safe workplace environments. In the event of a workplace injury or illness caused by dangerous surroundings, a victim may pursue claims for financial relief. Repayment for medical expenses related to the injury or illness, along with lost income due to work absences, may be pursued through the workers' compensation insurance program.

Source: pressherald.com, "Ammonia leak inside Portland building contained", Matt Byrne, May 24, 2016

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