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OSHA finds hazards at Houston retail distribution center

Late last month, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced that it was citing 99 Cent Only Stores Texas Inc. with 19 serious safety and health violations after an inspection took place at the company's Houston distribution center The inspection was conducted as part of a program that focuses on process safety management for covered chemical facilities.

According to OSHA, the citations were for violations relating to process safety management such as exposing workers to anhydrous ammonia while they stored frozen products in refrigeration units. As the director of OSHA's Houston North Area Office explained, process safety management "prevents the unexpected release of toxic, reactive or flammable liquids and gases in processes involving highly hazardous chemicals."

The OSHA director explained that anhydrous ammonia is a component often used in industrial refrigeration systems as a way to keep food products cold. However, he said the chemical can also cause extreme lung, eye and skin irritation, and potential burns to workers who are exposed. That's why the necessary safety precautions need to be in place.

Penalties totaling $121,000 have been proposed against the California-based discount retailer. OSHA considered the 21 violations serious, meaning that the hazards could have caused death or serious harm and the company knew or should have known about their existence.

The company is lucky that it has the opportunity to fix the hazards before serious injury results. Unfortunately, OSHA inspections aren't always able to identify safety hazards before they cause harm. In these instances, it may be possible for injured workers to file personal injury lawsuits against their employers.

Source: OSHA Regional News Release, "US Labor Department's OSHA cites Commerce, Calif. based 99 Cent Only Stores Texas with multiple serious violations at Houston facility," Sept. 26, 2012

Our firm assists workers in Texas who have been injured on the job. For more information about our practice, please visit our Pipeline, Construction and Industrial Injuries page.

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