US Department of Labor cites chemical company after two workers die, one sickened following exposure to respiratory hazards
DECATUR, AL – Exposure to dangerous toxins at an Alabama chemical manufacturing plant – Daikin America Inc. – lead to the deaths of two workers and sickened another worker after the employer failed to provide appropriate protective equipment and implement safe work practices during maintenance activities on chemical processing equipment.
A U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation found that on July 2, 2021, Daikin America exposed three chemical operators to toxic fluorocarbon and other hazardous chemicals that resulted in the workers suffering respiratory failure.
One worker spent nearly a week in a local hospital for respiratory failure treatment before he returned home. The other two employees were treated for respiratory failure at local hospitals but later died one on Aug. 10, 2021, and the other on Sept. 28, 2021.
The exposure occurred while the workers were conducting maintenance activities requiring a processing line break, a nitrogen purge, and atmospheric venting of equipment, resulting in the release of toxic fluorocarbons and other hazardous chemicals. The investigation revealed that Daikin America failed to institute critical safe work practices required under OSHA’s Process Safety Management standard and ensure workers used appropriate respiratory protection and personal protective equipment. The employer also failed to perform air monitoring to assess chemical exposures, provide written procedures that clearly identify the required level of respiratory protection, and communicate to workers the hazards associated with the chemicals.
OSHA cited Daikin America for nine serious and one willful violation. The company faces $232,103 in proposed penalties.
“Two families will enter 2022 without their loved ones and one family will have the long-lasting memory of a frightening and serious illness,” said OSHA Area Director Ramona Morris in Birmingham, Alabama. “This tragic event should serve as a lesson for all employers to ensure effective safety protocols are established before initiating maintenance activities involving chemical processing equipment and systems.”
The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. Learn more about OSHA.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s workers by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.