A penalty of $92,400 has been proposed

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COLUMBUS -- The company that makes Budweiser and Bud Light beers has been cited for serious safety violations, and a penalty of $92,400 has been proposed.

Anheuser-Busch's citations include two repeated and eight serious violations following an inspection of the brewery's ammonia refrigeration system by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The violations were cited under OSHA's Process Safety Management Standards, which contain specific requirements for managing highly hazardous chemicals in work processes. One such chemical is anhydrous ammonia, widely used as a refrigerant in industrial facilities, including breweries. Ammonia can be a health hazard because it is corrosive to the skin, eyes and lungs. It is a flammable vapor.

"Anheuser-Busch has a responsibility to ensure the safe operation of its refrigeration systems by implementing an engineering process for the detection and control of potential ammonia systems releases," said Deborah Zubaty, OSHA's area director in Columbus. "Exposure to ammonia can have serious health consequences. Failure of these systems, such as overpressurization, can result in explosion and fire. Workers should not be put at risk because this company failed to implement the required protections."

Anheuser-Busch issued the following statement Tuesday afternoon:

At Anheuser-Busch, safety is our top priority and we have an exemplary safety record. We have comprehensive safety and environment management systems which we continuously improve.
As part of our safety and environment management systems, employees of the Columbus brewery take every measure to provide a safe work environment for each other and the communities around us.
We have been fully cooperating with OSHA during their inquiry of our processes. We are disappointed with the citations from OSHA and do not agree with the substance or classification of the claims alleged. Safety is always our top priority and we look forward to working with OSHA to further improve our systems and resolve this matter.

The Feb. 4 inspection found the Anheuser-Busch plant failed to develop procedures for normal and emergency shutdown and restarting refrigeration systems, according to OSHA. The company's process hazard analysis failed to address the dangers of overpressurization and ammonia release completely, and failed to address engineering controls and their potential failure. In addition, the company did not install ammonia detection systems or a continuous emergency ventilation system, OSHA said.

An OSHA violation is serious if death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known exists.

The company was issued two repeat citations for failing to document properly the ammonia refrigeration system and the building ventilation design for use in emergencies. The company failed to document the design for a suction header pressure relief system adequately. The company was cited for similar violations in 2010 at a brewery in Cartersville, Georgia.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director or contest the findings.

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