Wyoming man hospitalized after breathing ammonia

AP News
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Posted: Nov 20, 2014 3:49 PM

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A worker remained hospitalized more than a week after he inhaled ammonia fumes through a malfunctioning respirator at a chemical plant that agreed to improve worker safety three years ago in a settlement, officials said.

Dyno Nobel officials said the 49-year-old man breathed the gas Nov. 11 at the company's plant a couple of miles west of town.

Ammonia gas can damage lung tissue. The man remained hospitalized as of Wednesday, according to Wyoming Department of Workforce Services spokeswoman Hayley McKee. He worked in Dyno Nobel's transportation division.

McKee had no information about the man's condition and declined to release his name. Department policy prohibits identifying injured workers, she said.

Dyno Nobel Inc. is a supplier of industrial explosives for mining and other industries. The plant agreed to improve worker safety in a 2011 settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"The safety and wellbeing of our employees is our first concern," Dyno Nobel said in a statement through company attorney Jeffrey Droubay. "We have cooperated with local authorities in reporting and handling this incident and will continue to do so."

The worker was exposed because of a malfunctioning respirator in the first of two accidental ammonia releases Nov. 11, McKee said. The first, at 6:30 a.m., released 54 pounds of ammonia over 16 minutes.

A second release less than two hours later let out 374 pounds of the gas, according to Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality spokesman Keith Guille.

The 2011 settlement required Dyno Nobel to improve maintenance and internal auditing of equipment used to store and process hazardous chemicals at the plant. The company also agreed to improve documentation of training for employees who worked with hazardous chemicals.