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I-Team: Feds Hit Boston Seafood Company With 20 Safety Violations In Deadly Ammonia Leak

BOSTON (CBS) – After a deadly ammonia leak back in March, federal safety regulators cited a Boston fish and seafood wholesaler Friday for 20 serious violations along with a proposed fine of $173,168.

Employee Brian Caron, a Peabody husband and father of two children, died on the job when he was overcome by the ammonia leak on March 23.

Brian Caron. (Facebook photo)

Brian Caron. (Facebook photo)

An inspection by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) determined the deficient design and lack of proper operation and maintenance for the ammonia refrigeration system and equipment exposed Caron and other employees to a “catastrophic release of ammonia,” according to details OSHA provided to WBZ-TV’s I-Team.

The inspection also identified a number of other safety issues related to fall protection, exit access, electrical equipment, and the labeling of chemical hazards.

The OSHA probe also revealed the alarm system for the ammonia machine room was not working properly and Stavis Seafoods had failed to properly train plant employees 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,” said James Mulligan, OSHA’s action area director for Boston and southeastern Massachusetts.

“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.”

Firefighters respond to an ammonia leak at Stavis Seafoods in South Boston, March 23, 2016. (WBZ-TV)

Firefighters respond to an ammonia leak at Stavis Seafoods in South Boston, March 23, 2016. (WBZ-TV)

As WBZ reported in March, the Boston seafood company had a history of OSHA violations that warned of ammonia leaks.

The incident at the seafood warehouse at 7 Channel Street prompted an enormous emergency response from the Boston Fire Department’s hazardous materials unit. It took first responders several hours to shut the main valve and contain the ammonia leak.

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 agency’s independent review commission.

Richard Stavis, the CEO of Stavis Seafoods, said the company cooperate fully with the investigation.

“We continue to mourn the loss of Brian Caron, our co–worker and friend,” said Stavis.

“We cooperated fully with OSHA’s investigation and have taken extensive steps to ensure both employee and public safety including: permanently closing the impacted facility, hiring a third-party safety and compliance consultant, and working closely with OSHA to ensure that all our facilities and equipment meet or exceed the highest safety standards.”

Ryan Kath can be reached at rkath@cbs.com. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on Facebook

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