Leak contained, production resumed within hours

Ammonia leak at Tyson plant sends 25 employees to hospital

By Heidi Parsons

- Last updated on GMT

Tyson's Chick ‘n Quick further processing facility in Rogers, Arkansas.
Tyson's Chick ‘n Quick further processing facility in Rogers, Arkansas.

Related tags Tyson foods Ammonia

An ammonia leak at a Tyson Foods plant in Rogers, Arkansas caused 25 employees to seek medical attention at local hospitals and 250 people to be temporarily evacuated from the plant.

“As a precaution we immediately evacuated about 250 employees when an ammonia smell entered part of our Rogers Chick ‘n Quick facility [Wednesday afternoon] as we performed maintenance on the roof,”​ a company spokesman told FoodProductionDaily.

“Some team members asked to see a doctor and went to two area hospitals for observation. Fortunately, all of our employees who asked to see a doctor following the event were released from observation within a few hours.”

In a statement to the media, Tyson officials said, “Initial readings inside the plant indicate that ammonia was not detected in the environment.”

As seen on TV

It is typical for companies that experience potentially dangerous incidents to frame their communication in the best possible light, and Tyson is no exception. However, Rogers fire chief Tom Jenkins told another side of the story during interviews with a local TV reporter.

“We were originally called to the plant because of a medical emergency — someone had passed out,”​ Jenkins said.

When firefighters arrived, they encountered a hazardous material (hazmat) situation, according to 40/29 TV. More Tyson employees were sick, complaining of difficulty with breathing and swallowing.

Emergency vehicles took several of those employees to an area hospital. In all, 25 employees sought medical attention.

Speedy recovery

Other local media reports provided further details: The leak was detected at about 3:30 pm and nearly 29 emergency personnel were dispatched to the facility. The plant’s emergency response team quickly sealed the leak, and employees were allowed back inside within an hour. Production resumed at 7 pm.

“The health and safety of our employees is very important to us,”​ the Tyson spokesman said. “That’s why we have extensive safety and health training, programs and policies in place at all of our facilities. Our emergency plans worked as they were designed to.”

Related topics Processing & Packaging

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Posted by Heidi Parsons,

In the specific context of Tyson's Chick'n Quick plant, the products made there are sold in the frozen food case. Thus, after the products are made, they are fully cooked and then frozen. Industrial freezers use ammonia as a refrigerant.

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Posted by Kirsty,

Ammonia is used in industrial refrigeration worldwide. Many food processing plants that temperature control food will use ammonia as it has fantastic thermodynamic properties.

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Posted by cvaught,

Ammonia is used as the refrigerant in cooling systems for large refrigerated areas and warehouses. Commonly used in these types of facilites.

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