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Rich continues to suspend production at Ft. Erie plant

Rich Products will continue to suspend production at its Fort Erie plant through at least Wednesday afternoon, as an investigation continues into a fatal accident.

The company suspended production at the plant on Monday afternoon, after an ammonia leak prompted evacuation of the facility. A contractor working in the area where the accident occurred was found critically injured and was later pronounced dead. Two other people were treated at a hospital for minor injuries.

Rich Products has brought in an environmental services firm to help clean up the ammonia, said Dwight Gram, a spokesman for the Buffalo-based food products company.

Niagara Regional Police and the Ontario Ministry of Labour continue to investigate the accident, Gram said.

The contractor who died was not identified, but the Ministry of Labour said he worked for WearCheck Canada. The company’s Canadian operations are based in Burlington, Ont. Its website says WearCheck specializes in oil analysis and provides condition-monitoring services to a variety of industries.

William Lin, a Ministry of Labour spokesman, said he could not comment specifically on the Rich Products incident. But he said the ministry’s inspectors generally seek to determine the cause of an accident and whether any violations of workplace health and safety laws occurred.

Niagara Regional Police on Monday said no further information would be released about the worker who died. A police spokesman did not return a message on Tuesday to comment on the investigation.

Rich Products’ Fort Erie plant produces frozen dough products and is currently serving its customers out of its inventory.

If production remains suspended there for an extended period, the company will make alternate supply arrangements, Gram said.

The Fort Erie plant’s engine room houses the facility’s ammonia compressors and equipment that powers the plant’s refrigeration system.

Before the leak was contained on Monday, residents near the plant were told to stay inside their homes with their windows closed as a safety precaution.