Last Thursday in Gainesville, Georgia a nitrogen line burst at a meat processing plant. The nitrogen leak caused the death of at least six workers and respiratory injuries to many others at the plant. Currently, at least three workers remain in critical condition out of the eleven taken to the hospital.
The leak occurred at a chicken processing plant reportedly owned by the Foundation Food Group. The Hall County Fire Department Chief stated that “once the units arrived, they found a large contingent of employees that had evacuated, along with multiple victims that were in that crowd that were also experiencing medical emergencies around the facility.” Further, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Health System stated that five victims died at the plant and one in the emergency room.
According to the vice president for Foundation Food Group, they believe a line ruptured in the facility. Currently, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Georgia Health Administration are investigating the fatalities. Further, a team from the Chemical Safety Board has been dispatched to investigate the cause of the nitrogen leak. The plant has reported at least four OSHA violations in the last ten years.
Nitrogen leaks are potentially deadly, especially within a confined space, and require safety protocols be adhered to. When liquid nitrogen leaks into the air, it vaporizes into an odorless gas displacing oxygen and suffocating those exposed. Often poultry plants will rely on refrigeration systems that use liquid nitrogen.
Where the plant is located is in the hub of Georgia’s meat processing and poultry industry, which includes some of the largest processing plants in the country. It was reported by Mexico’s Foreign Relations Department that two of the deceased plant workers are citizens of Mexico. Often, the labor force of these poultry plants are recent immigrants, with limited employment opportunities. Meat processing can provide poor and dangerous working conditions.
If you or someone you know has suffered due to a chemical leak, contact an attorney at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz, & Stogner by calling 713-396-3964 or toll-free at 1-800-594-4884.