OSHA investigates Tyson ammonia leak

LEXINGTON — The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has launched an investigation of the ammonia leak at the Tyson Foods Facility that occurred on Tuesday, Sept. 4.

OSHA spokesman Scott Allen said OSHA would be investigating to find out if Tyson was following all of OSHA’s safety protocols at the time of the ammonia leak. Interviews will be done with employees and eyewitnesses as part of the investigation.

OSHA is allowed up to six months to conduct the investigation. If any violations are found, Tyson could face monetary penalties and citations, Allen said.

Worth Sparkman, Senior Manager Public Relations with Tyson Foods said, “We notified OSHA of the incident at our Lexington beef plant last week and are cooperating with their investigation.”

On Sept. 4 Lexington Regional Health Center became aware of the incident at Tyson after EMS services alerted LRHC that two patients would be transported to the facility via ambulance, said LRHC Health Information Director LeAnn Megeral. After this initial call, a second was placed to the hospital, alerting the staff multiple patients would be arriving by ambulance.

Megeral said after this LRHC activated its disaster call list, she said this call list ensures multiple staff are notified of the situation and ensures they have enough staff on hand to care for each patient.

Twenty patients arrived at the LRHC for observation and treatment, of these one was transferred to St. Elizabeth’s hospital in Lincoln and two were admitted to LRHC for observation overnight. Megeral said the LRHC staff was observing for respiratory issues such as shortness of breath and burning eyes or skin.

Around 5:30 p.m. two more patients were brought to LRHC by ambulance and three others came by themselves for observation. The two patients admitted earlier to the LRHC for observations were released the next day in stable condition, said Megeral. The patient admitted to St. Elizabeth has also been discharged.

Lexington Volunteer Fire Department Chief Dahlas Holbein said that their ambulance units were used during the incident and made three trips with multiple patients. Tyson employees had isolated the ammonia leak and evacuated the plant so the air packs the department brought along were not needed.

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