NIOSH Reports that Employee Health was Impacted by Chlorine Gas Release

December 3, 2012 - An investigation by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that human error caused a recent chlorine-gas release at a poultry-processing plant in Arkansas and resulted in three employees experiencing asthma-like symptoms. About 600 employees were working at the plant when the accident occurred.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) asked NIOSH personnel to assess the impact of the gas release on employee health, as well as the accident’s cause. NIOSH last week released its full report with its findings and recommendations.

Over three site visits, NIOSH personnel conducted interviews with employees who were present when the accident occurred and evaluated employees for symptoms of asthma, which can be caused by a single high-level exposure to an irritant like chlorine, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The investigation found that three employees developed reactive airway dysfunction syndrome, a type of asthma, and more than 100 employees had symptoms of PTSD following the incident.

The NIOSH also reported that human error caused the mixing of an acidic antimicrobial solution, Fresh FX, with a sodium hypochlorite solution, which caused the chlorine-gas release. NIOSH determined that English-only labeling at the plant combined with employees' lack of English literacy contributed to the accident.

"The unintentional release of chlorine gas at this plant posed a serious health hazard to employees," NIOSH stated.  545 of the 600 employees present during the accident participated in the investigation.

Read the full report. View more NIOSH HHE reports on the agency's website.

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