Gas Leak Kills 6 at Georgia Poultry Plant
A liquid nitrogen has also left multiple workers in critical condition
A liquid nitrogen leak in a poultry plant in Georgia has killed six people and sent multiple others to the hospital including some firefighters.
The leak occurred at the Prime Pak Foods plant in Gainesville Georgia on Thursday morning. In an effort to keep the poultry cold, these plants often use liquid nitrogen in their refrigeration systems. It is unclear what caused the leak, but as of Thursday afternoon, OSHA and the state fire marshal were on the scene investigating.
By the time firefighters arrived on Thursday, a crowd of workers had gathered outside of the plant. According to Hall County Fire Department Division Chief Zach Brackett, they also found multiple victims suffering medical emergencies. Five workers were pronounced dead at the scene, and another died in the emergency room. At least four firefighters were taken to the hospital and at least three plant workers were in critical condition at local hospitals. About 130 workers were taken to a local church which is serving as a triage center to determine if anyone else is sick or injured.
The plant takes raw chicken and processes it into products like chicken fingers and individual chicken cuts for restaurants and foodservice operations.
This is not Prime Pak’s first run-in with a safety issue. According to OSHA reports they were fined $12,548 in July of 2017 and $11,122 in November of 2005 for safety-related offenses. They also received two environmental violations from the EPA in 2001 and 2004.
Prime-Pak is part of the Foundation Food Group after they merged with Victory Processing Inc. While it is too early to speculate on the cause of the leak, Foundation Food Group’s Facebook page indicates that the company was looking to hire new refrigeration and maintenance techs, possibly meaning that they were understaffed in repairing faulty refrigeration equipment.
Gainesville Georgia is the heart of Georgi’s poultry industry. Thousands of people work in multiple processing plants in the area, many of them working non-union.