Friday, September 30, 2016

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

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

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Seafood Company Had History Of Violations, Including Ammonia Concerns March 24, 2016 10:00 PM

BOSTON (CBS) — The seafood company where an employee was killed in an ammonia leak that prompted a large Hazmat response Wednesday had a history of OSHA violations that warned of ammonia leaks.

The employee who was killed has been identified as Brian Caron, a husband and father of two from Peabody. “If there was something going on for a friend, he was there,” said Jane Leone, Caron’s friend. “He was sincere, he was a real genuine guy.”

Stavis Seafoods, owners of the warehouse where Caron was killed, had sixteen OSHA violations in 2009. The violations were found during a planned inspection.

OSHA also expressed concern about the company’s handling of ammonia. In a release from September 2009, the organization said, “The requirements of OSHA’s PSM standard are stringent and comprehensive because a leak could have a severe or catastrophic effect on employees.”

According to WBZ-TV’s Lauren Leamanczyk, OSHA came to an informal settlement with Stavis later that year in which the company agreed to correct some of the violations–but there are no records or any indication that OSHA has been back since.

Brian Caron (WBZ-TV)

The violations regarding ammonia were later cleared because the amount of ammonia on-site was under the threshold required for a company to follow OSHA’s requirements for process safety management. The company paid a fine of $15,750 for other violations.

According to state records, Stavis Seafoods has reported 17 work-related injuries since 2009.

Richard Stavis, CEO of Stavis Seafoods, issued the following statement Thursday:

Our concern today is with the tragic death of our employee, his family and finding out exactly what happened.

The safety of our employees and our workplace is always our greatest priority. To that end we will do everything we can to assist with the investigation.

Boston Fire responded to the Stavis Seafoods warehouse at 7 Channel Street around 6 p.m. Wednesday night. They found one worker dead near a second-floor stairwell.

“Our first companies on the scene made entry to try to save one of the workers but they were pushed back by the product, the ammonia,” Boston Fire Chief John Walsh said.

Four other workers who were in the building were able to evacuate.

The leak of a 5,300 lb. ammonia tank prompted a Level 3 Hazmat response and firefighters wore fully encapsulated suits when they entered the building.

Hazmat crews at ammonia leak in Seaport District (WBZ-TV)

The ammonia leak was stopped when firefighters shut down the main valve several hours after they arrived at the warehouse.

First responders say they wasted precious time trying to reach the emergency shutoff.

“There’s a valve in there that’s supposed to be easily accessible. But at this building it’s not at this time,” Boston Fire Chief John Walsh said Wednesday night.

It is not yet clear how the leak started. Boston Police Commissioner William Evans said homicide detectives and OSHA are investigating.