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U.S. Department of Labor | September 30, 2016 BOS 2016-156

OSHA cites Stavis Seafoods Inc. for 20 serious violations
following March ammonia leak in which employee died
Boston seafood processor neglected industry, OSHA safety standards

BRAINTREE, Mass. - Brian Caron died on the job on March 23, 2016, when he was fatally overcome by an ammonia leak caused by a burst pipe in the machine shop of his employer, Boston fish and seafood wholesaler Stavis Seafoods Inc.

An inspection by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration determined that the deficient design and lack of proper operation and maintenance for the machine shop's ammonia refrigeration system and equipment exposed Caron and other Stavis employees to a catastrophic release of ammonia.

Specifically, Stavis Seafoods failed to:

  • Ensure proper containment of ammonia within the machine room in that there were large floor holes and no door to separate the machine room from a maintenance/storage room and prevent the spread of ammonia vapor.
  • Test and calibrate ammonia sensors following the manufacturer's recommendations.
  • Establish and implement an adequate inspection schedule for pressure vessels.
  • Label ammonia piping properly.
  • Provide a ventilation system sufficient to prevent possible combustion or explosion of ammonia vapors resulting from an ammonia release.

In addition, the alarm system for the ammonia machine room was not working and the employer failed to train plant employees adequately in emergency evacuation procedures.

"The company's failure to follow industry and OSHA standards exposed its employees to the hazards of an ammonia release as well as falls, electric shock, hazardous chemicals and delayed or obstructed exit from the facility during a leak or other emergency. It's clear that Stavis Seafoods must take effective action to correct these hazards and prevent their recurrence so that no other employees are harmed on the job," said James Mulligan, OSHA's acting area director for Boston and southeastern Massachusetts.

OSHA's inspection identified several other conditions which exposed employees to the hazards of:

  • Falls due to insufficiently guarded door openings, lack of roof guardrails, defective ladders and an unmarked door leading to a 17-foot drop.
  • Impeded or blocked exit routes stemming from inadequately stored equipment and sheets of plywood and building materials and equipment stored near the exit door.
  • An incomplete inventory of hazardous chemicals used in the workplace, unlabeled containers of hazardous chemicals and not providing adequate chemical hazard communication training to employees.
  • Several electrical hazards including improper use of electrical wiring and equipment, and the use of extension cords in place of permanent wiring.

As a result of its findings, OSHA has cited Stavis Seafoods Inc. for 20 serious violations of workplace safety and health standards. Proposed fines total $173,168. The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

The citations can be viewed here.

Pre-citation legal assistance was provided by the Boston regional office of the solicitor.

To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report amputations, eye loss, workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's Braintree office at 603-225-1629.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.

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Media Contact:

Ted Fitzgerald, 617-565-2075, fitzgerald.edmund@dol.gov
James C. Lally, 617-565-2074, lally.james.c@dol.gov

Release Number: 16-1930-BOS


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