South Boston Seafood Company Fined $173,168 after Deadly Ammonia Leak

OSHA identified 20 violations at Stavis Seafoods, where an employee died after a leak back in March.

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Six months after an ammonia leak proved fatal and spurred a large-scale hazmat response in the Seaport, Boston’s Stavis Seafoods has been cited and fined for a number of safety violations.

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration found 20 different infractions at the company’s South Boston warehouse, with a proposed fine of $173,168. CBS Boston first reported the news on Friday.

The leak on the evening of March 23 killed employee Brian Caron, who collapsed in a stairwell while trying to escape the fumes. Investigators later determined that the ammonia, which is used in refrigeration systems, had been flowing from a ruptured metal pipe.

Among other violations, OSHA found that the warehouse’s cooling system was not properly inspected and maintained, an alarm system in the warehouse’s ammonia machine room was not working, and hazardous chemicals were not adequately labeled. The full list of citations is available here via the Department of Labor.

“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,” James Mulligan, OSHA’s acting regional director, says in a written statement. “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.”

In an emailed statement, Stavis Seafoods CEO Richard Stavis says the company has “taken extensive steps to ensure both employee and public safety.”

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

A spokesman for the company declined to say whether Stavis plans to challenge OSHA’s findings or the fines.

OSHA has cited Stavis Seafoods for safety violations in the past, and fined the company $15,750, according to records from the agency cited in the Globe.