A Tyson Foods administrator blasted a CDC report Thursday that blamed a language barrier for a gas leak that put 152 workers in the hospital last year.
A dangerous chlorine gas leak at a Springdale Tyson plant last year was caused by a worker unable to fully understand English, according to a report released by the Centers For Disease Control on Thursday.
A Tyson worker with a limited understanding of the English language poured sodium hypochlorite into 55-gallon drum that contained an acidic solution, resulting in a gas leak that hospitalized 152 workers, the report states. About 600 workers were evacuated from the plant during the June 2011 incident.
The employee was unable to read the label on the drum that had been accidentally put in the wrong place, according to the report.
Hours after the CDC released the report, Tyson released its own statement saying the employee in question was not Hispanic, and that the worker’s primary language is English.
“While there’s no question this was an unfortunate incident, we acted responsibly in addressing it,” the Tyson release states.
The CDC’s report disagrees.
“This chlorine release and its resultant health effects were preventable,” the report states. “OSHA issued the owner of the poultry plant a citation for not ensuring that chemical hazard communication training was understood by all employees.”
The report recommends the plant increases communication efforts and tailors communication to employees’ own languages if necessary.
Two-thirds of workers at the plant speak Spanish as a primary language, while 12 percent speak Marshallese.
The Tyson statement said the employee had previously received hazardous chemical training.
“Our plant has had an emergency action plan…in place for years that specifically addresses release situations like this one, and it worked effectively during the 2011 incident,” the statement said.
Most of the plant’s workers were back at their jobs within a few days after the incident. Ten were gone from work for two weeks, and two employees were off for six weeks, according to Tyson.
One of the affected employees continues to be treated for respiratory symptoms.