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Gainesville poultry plant has second leak in six months; Complaint filed with OSHA

Some workers feared they would die like some of their co-workers had six weeks prior during the nitrogen leak.

GAINESVILLE, Ga. — The Foundation Food Group in Gainesville is facing more accusations of an unsafe work environment after an advocacy group filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

The complaint claims the plant likely violated process safety management standards twice within six months, putting workers in fear for their lives. 

Just weeks after a deadly nitrogen leak killed six workers and injured others on January 28, Foundation Food Group is still under scrutiny. And now one advocacy group wants OSHA to take the plant to court. 

Georgia Families Unidas filed an imminent danger complaint with OSHA on behalf of families impacted by the leaks. 

On March 11, the plant had another leak; this one was ammonia.

"If there’s any kind of significant leak then you’re not only worried about not only the coughing, choking, and gagging, but you get swelling of airways and that could be even life threatening," said Gaylord Lopez, executive director of Georgia Poison Center. 

According to the complaint, workers had symptoms like burning eyes, headaches and sore throats that lasted for days. Some workers even feared they would die like some of their co-workers had six weeks prior during the nitrogen leak.

The complaint calls for more exit doors that are unlocked and a working alarm system to go off when there is a leak or danger. Georgia Families Unidas wants a federal district court to eliminate the imminent danger by requiring Foundation Food Group to put the safety measures in place. 

In a statement to 11Alive about the March 11 incident, Foundation Food Group said the following: 

“After a review of the Foundation Food Group prepared foods facility today by a professional refrigeration company, no actionable levels of ammonia were found, and the plant was cleared of any potential risk to the company’s employees. Hall County Firefighters toured the facility later today and confirmed, there were no actionable levels of ammonia.

We continue to make every resource available to regulatory authorities relative to the ongoing investigation and remain dedicated to ensuring a safe workplace for all employees"

RELATED: Cause of death released for 6 victims in Gainesville liquid nitrogen leak

In another statement released on April 1, the company said they take works place safety seriously:

"Foundation Food Group continues to work with government agencies and others investigating the Jan. 28, incident at the prepared foods plant in an effort to ensure a complete and thorough investigation. 

The Hall County Fire Marshal conducted an annual fire inspection, which passed on February 11, 2021. The facility meets or exceeds all fire safety standards. The safety of FFG’s associates remains a top priority, which includes maintaining safety programs and protocols and training associates in their native languages. FFG has and continues to provide necessary PPE to associates at no cost.

As always, Foundation Food Group takes workplace safety very seriously.  We are committed to taking any additional measures necessary to further ensure the safety of our employees."

OSHA is still investigating the nitrogen leak at the plant from earlier this year. 11Alive filed a request with OSHA to find out the status of the most recent leak.

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