Local News

Chicken plant cited for safety violations

Posted December 15, 2009 2:56 p.m. EST

Mountaire Farms Inc. processing plant

— State inspectors on Tuesday fined a Robeson County chicken processing plant $73,325 for workplace safety violations that led to a fatal ammonia leak in June.

The state Department of Labor cited Mountaire Farms in Lumber Bridge for 22 safety violations. The company has 15 business days to appeal the findings.

A high-pressure ammonia line ruptured in the Mountaire plant on June 20, forcing up to 40 workers to evacuate the building, authorities said. Mechanic Clifton Swain, 49, of Fayetteville, died in the incident, and four other workers were injured.

Inspectors said refrigeration mechanics at the plant routinely ignored temperature and pressure limits, and they weren't properly trained on using and repairing some equipment in the plant.

Respirators used in emergencies at the plant were stored improperly and weren't tested to ensure they worked, according to inspectors. Also, Mountaire workers expected to respond to emergencies had inadequate training and ill-fitting respiratory equipment, and a shower in the plant for washing chemicals off workers didn't work.

The plant employs about 2,500 people.

Between 2005 and last June, state and federal regulators cited the plant for 19 workplace safety violations, including 15 in an inspection report dated April 21. Nine of those violations were labeled serious, and fines totaled $19,600.