OSHA has cited New England Confectionery Company Inc., also known as Necco, for 19 alleged serious violations of workplace health and safety standards at its Revere production plant. The manufacturer of Necco Wafers, Clark Bars and other candies faces proposed penalties of $133,000 in connection with the release of 8,000 pounds of ammonia from the plant's refrigeration system on Oct. 5, 2012.

Inspections by OSHA's Andover Area Office identified several shortfalls in the plant's process safety management program under which the plant must proactively analyze, address and minimize potentially catastrophic hazards associated with the use of large amounts of ammonia in its refrigeration system. Specifically, Necco failed to develop safe operating procedures for the refrigeration system; did not adequately inspect and have adequate preventive maintenance procedures for machinery, piping and storage vessels used in the refrigeration system; and did not update procedures and inform workers of changes to the refrigeration process, its equipment and management.

"This was a serious and preventable incident that could have resulted in the loss of human life," said Jeffrey Erskine, OSHA's area director for Middlesex and Essex counties. "The fact that none of the plant's workers were injured does not relieve this employer of its responsibility to establish and maintain a complete, effective and fully functioning program to anticipate, analyze, identify and correct problems, so that an ammonia release doesn't occur in the first place."

No emergency response plan

In addition, OSHA found that the plant did not have or implement an emergency response plan for employees who responded to the ammonia release, workers were not trained to use fire extinguishers and an unsuitable motor was used in a hazardous area where combustible dust was present. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

New England Confectionery Company Inc. 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 at http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/new_england_confectionary_co._686158_0402_13.pdf and http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/new_england_confectionary_co_765142_0402_13.pdf.

Detailed information of process safety management hazards and safeguards is available at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/processsafetymanagement/index.html.