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Where OSHA is in nitrogen leak probe, who it's looking to hear from
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Foundation Food Group at the Memorial Drive entrance. - photo by Scott Rogers

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said it is still working on its investigation into the Jan. 28 liquid nitrogen leak at Foundation Food Group that killed six people, adding it would like to hear from employees.

Six people were killed and a total 12 people were hospitalized after the leak at the Gainesville poultry processing plant on Memorial Park Drive.

Sen. Raphael Warnock penned a letter Thursday, April 8, to OSHA seeking information on the gas leak investigation.

“Congress created the OSHA to ensure safe and healthy working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing workplace safety,” Warnock wrote. “I strongly believe that OSHA has a critical role to play in protecting the dignity of work, which includes ensuring safe working conditions and swift accountability when working conditions are unsafe. I appreciate your swift action to investigate and hold the appropriate people accountable. While I understand the investigation can take time, I request an update of your ongoing investigation so I can keep my constituents informed.”

OSHA said it was also investigating reports of a March 11 ammonia release. Hall County Fire Services evaluated the scene later that day and “found no hazards, including ammonia to be present.” Foundation Food Group previously told The Times that “no actionable levels of ammonia” were found after a review by a professional refrigeration company.

“OSHA is working methodically to complete its investigation and we want to hear from Foundation Food Group … employees to ensure safe operations for all who work there,” said Acting Area Director Condell Eastmond in the Atlanta-East office in a news release

The agency said employees may contact OSHA confidentially at 770-493-7725 “if they have facts that might assist the agency as it gathers information related to both incidents.”

OSHA said it is illegal for employers to retaliate against employees “for exercising their safety and health rights.”

Georgia Familias Unidas filed an imminent danger complaint with OSHA in late March on behalf of multiple employees. 

OSHA spokesman Eric Lucero said the investigation on the complaint remained open Wednesday, April 7, and declined to provide any further information.

After the imminent danger complaint was filed, Foundation Group Group told The Times in a statement that safety for the company’s associates “remains a top priority, which includes maintaining safety programs and protocols and training associates in their native languages,” the company said in a statement.

“As always, Foundation Food Group takes workplace safety very seriously,” the company said in a statement. “We are committed to taking any additional measures necessary to further ensure the safety of our employees.”

Vanesa Sarazua, executive director of Hispanic Alliance-GA, said they gave an additional $583 for each of the five families who lost someone in the nitrogen leak, bringing the total of $5,583 per family.

She said they have also been helping some that have ongoing medical issues and were struggling to pay rent.

“We’ve helped with mental health support for these families,” Sarazua said. “They are still grieving the loss of a loved one.”

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