DuPont Fined for 4 Fatalities

Friday, May 15, 2015 @ 03:05 PM gHale

It just didn’t have to be that way. Four workers killed by a lethal gas in November would be alive today had their employer, DuPont, taken steps to protect them at the La Porte, TX, facility, an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) report said.

OSHA cited DuPont for 11 safety violations and identified scores of safety upgrades the company must undertake to prevent future accidents at its Lannate/API manufacturing building in La Porte. OSHA also fined the company $99,000. The company employs 313 workers who manufacture crop protection materials and chemicals at the plant.

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“Four people lost their lives and their families lost loved ones because DuPont did not have proper safety procedures in place,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “Had the company assessed the dangers involved, or trained their employees on what to do if the ventilation system stopped working, they might have had a chance.”

The fatal incident occurred as one worker became overwhelmed when methyl mercaptan gas unexpectedly released when she opened a drain on a methyl mercaptan vent line, officials said. Two co-workers who came to her aid also ended up overcome. None of the three wore protective respirators. A fourth co-worker — the brother of one of the fallen men — attempted a rescue, but was unsuccessful. All four workers died in the building.

Methyl mercaptan is a colorless gas with a strong odor. It goes in pesticides, jet fuels and plastics. At dangerous levels of exposure, the gas depresses the central nervous system and affects the respiratory center, producing death by respiratory paralysis.

DuPont received citations for one repeat, nine serious and one other than serious OSHA violations. The repeat violation was for not training employees on using the building’s ventilation system and other safety procedures, such as how to respond if the fans stopped working. In July 2010, DuPont received a similar violation.

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