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Meat Processing Plant: Worker Exposure to Chemicals and Vapors Due to Lack of Adequate Ventilation

Provided by IFC Sustainable Business Advisory

Meat-processing Plant, São Paolo, Brazil


A 50-worker meat processing plant in Brazil occupies the basement and three floors of a building in an urban area of São Paolo. The main customers are retailers within the city, so the location of the plant is strategic - it helps to minimize transport and refrigeration costs. Commercial rents in São Paolo have been increasing, so the plant managers want to maximize the use of space by including the basement. Workers are concentrated in the basement, where they handle chemicals used in meat preservation. The basement also houses the large refrigerators that are used to store the meat – these refrigerators are not properly vented and expose workers to toxic ammonia vapor from the cooling system.


  • Worker illnesses due to exposure to chemicals and vapors
  • Emergency situations due to major leakage, fire or other immediate evacuation require­ments


  • Contract a specialized company for ammonia refrigeration plant preventive maintenance and repairs
  • Provide training to personnel responsible for operation of the refrigeration plant
  • Inspect ammonia refrigeration equipment and eliminate ammonia leaks; overcome the effects of deferred maintenance
  • Move refrigeration plant to an upper floor to increase air ventilation
  • Move production process and processes requiring chemical handling from basement to upper floors. Basement could be used for non-hazardous/non-flammable material or simple operations that do not require chemical handling
  • Ensure all regulatory requirements related to building codes, ammonia storage and use and safety/labor codes are met, monitored and reported on a regular basis


  • Minimize leakages of ammonia during handling/replacement of the ammonia cylinders, regulators, manifolds, etc. and during purging operations
  • Minimize ammonia and meat preservation chemicals exposure to employees through proper training, appropriate PPEs and adequate ventilation in the operation area
  • Provide necessary information on hazards of ammonia exposure to workers using MSDS and ICSC
  • Install ammonia detection systems with visual and audible alarms; train workers on emer­gency response, evacuation and rescue procedures


  • Pay for medical checkups of workers (e.g. pulmonary capacity tests)
  • Provide medical assistance for cases of workplace related injury/illnesses
  • Compensate injured workers for wages lost
  • Compensate for loss of life and loss of ability to work

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