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Contract worker dies after ammonia leak at Rich Products plant in Fort Erie

A contract worker at Rich Products’ Town of Fort Erie plant died Monday after an ammonia leak at the food products facility.

The name of the worker was not disclosed, pending notification of next of kin, Niagara Regional Police said. Two other workers – one of them a contract employee, the other a Rich Products employee – were treated for injuries that were not life-threatening.

“Worker safety is our No. 1 priority at every facility we have around the world, and we’re heartbroken that this has occurred,” said Dwight Gram, a spokesman for Buffalo-based Rich Products.

The leak occurred around noon in the plant’s engine room, which houses the facility’s ammonia compressors and equipment that powers the plant’s refrigeration system, Gram said. The plant’s hazardous materials team, which is trained by the town’s fire department, responded to the emergency before fire and police officials arrived.

The male contract worker who later died was working in the immediate area of the leak and was found critically injured. The town’s fire chief notified the company about 2 p.m. that the worker had died. The two other injured workers were taken to a hospital for treatment.

About 85 Rich employees and 10 contract workers were on site when the leak occurred, and they were evacuated to the company’s adjacent administration building, Gram said.

Before the leak was stopped and the ammonia system shut down, residents near the plant were told to remain in their homes with their windows closed, police said.

The cause of the accident was not known. Production at the plant has been suspended, and Rich Products was working with the fire department and the Ministry of Labour on the investigation.

Rich Products employs about 285 people, whom it refers to as associates, at the Fort Erie plant. The figure does not include contract workers.

The plant makes a variety of frozen dough products. Rich Products has had operations in Fort Erie for more than 50 years.