GA Familias Unidas
Executive Director: Maria Del Rosario Palacios
Director of Public Affairs: Paul Glaze
Rosario@gafu.org / Paul@gafu.org, (404) 431-5962
(Gainesville, Georgia) – Today, Friday, March 26, 2021, GA Familias Unidas filed an Imminent Danger complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on behalf of multiple workers employed by Foundation Food Group. This complaint demands that OSHA use its legal authority to take Foundation Food Group to court and require it provide fundamental and necessary safety and health protections to workers at the facility. Six workers were senselessly killed on January 28, 2021 due to a toxic nitrogen leak. Less than two months later, on March 11, 2021, another toxic leak took place at the same Foundation Food Group facility, this time from an ammonia line. Numerous workers, some of whom are pregnant, have experienced serious medical symptoms as a result of these leaks. Based on these incidents and the dire lack of safety precautions or emergency planning at the facility, workers are fearful that another fatal leak could occur at any time.
During both leaks, 130 workers only had access to one exit door. That door did not lead directly to the outside; rather, workers had to walk through two separate rooms before they were able to escape the toxic fumes. Though the facility does have another exit door, that door remained locked. No alarm sounded during either of the leaks.
Foundation Food Group remains in violation of one of the oldest and most fundamental OSHA laws requiring that facilities such as Foundation Food Group have at least two exit doors, that these doors remain unlocked, and that the doors open directly to the outside of the facility. These OSHA violations are reminiscent of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire that occurred in New York City 110 years ago this week. One hundred and forty six workers, most of them poor Jewish and Italian immigrants, mainly women and girls just like here, died in a fire that spread throughout the factory when all of the stairwell and exit doors were locked. The only way workers could escape was through March 26, 2021 a fire escape, but the ladders did not extend high enough, causing several women workers to jump to their deaths.
Thirty years ago, at another poultry processing facility in Hamlet, North Carolina, 25 workers, mostly African American and women workers died for the same reason — locked exit doors. Over 100 years later, companies like Foundation Food Group go unchecked in the working conditions for poor, immigrant, workers of color. It’s unacceptable, and we refuse to stand by as workers come to work at Foundation Food Group daily living in fear that there will be yet another leak, that they will not hear any alarms, that too will meet their deaths and not return home to their families and loved ones. We therefore request that OSHA use its statutory authority to seek a petition in federal district court, requiring that the following fundamental and federally required safety and health procedures and protocols be carried out and documented verification of their completion provided to all workers at Foundation Food Group.
1. Provide for more than one unlocked emergency exit door and ensure all workers have access to the exits;
2. Ensure exit doors lead directly to the outside of the building;
3. Install and/or correct any current alarm system to go off during toxic release of chemicals and/or gas;
4. Immediately develop a written plan to do a process hazard analyses on all machines and equipment that could have a toxic release of nitrogen, ammonia, or other hazardous chemicals and/or gas;
5. Provide workers with a copy of this plan in a language they can understand, specifically in Spanish and written so that it can be understood by workers with limited education and literacy;
6. Have a team with expertise in engineering and control processes perform process hazard analyses on each piece of equipment that could release toxic chemicals and/or gas like ammonia and nitrogen;
7. Provide workers with documentation of hazard analyses in a language they can understand, as defined above;
8. Develop schedule to address hazards found in the pieces of equipment;
9. Document what was done to address hazards in equipment and provide this documentation to workers in a language they can understand, as defined above;
10. Develop and implement an emergency action plan for unplanned releases of toxic chemicals. This plan must be written in a language that workers can understand and be understandable based on the literacy levels of workers;
11. Train workers on the emergency action plan in a language they can understand; and
12. Provide employees with necessary personal protective equipment and respirators.
We are not advocating for the facility to shut down to take these measures. We know that these workers depend on the income they receive for their hard work, often working up to 45 hours a week. What we are advocating for is for Foundation Food Group to follow March 26, 2021 established and fundamental federal workplace safety and health laws. It’s been 110 years since 140 immigrant workers died from lack of exits and emergency planning at the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, 30 years since 25 workers, including Blacksingle mothers, died from the lack of sufficient exit doors in Hamlet, North Carolina and 2 months since 6 workers died from a toxic nitrogen leak, with only 1 door for 130 workers to escape. We are here to say, not one more worker should risk death to work at Foundation Food Group. We ask OSHA to use its power to do the right thing. Take Foundation Food Group to court. Now.