Proper protections could have saved four DuPont workers killed by gas
Federal safety investigators find serious failures in 2014 toxic release in Texas
LAPORTE, Texas Four workers killed by a lethal gas in November 2014 would be alive today had their employer, DuPont, taken steps to protect them, a U.S. Department of Labor investigation found.
The department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration today 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. The company employs 313 workers who manufacture crop protection materials and chemicals there.
"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 was overwhelmed when methyl mercaptan gas was unexpectedly released when she opened a drain on a methyl mercaptan vent line. Two co-workers who came to her aid were also 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 people died in the building.
Methyl mercaptan is a colorless gas with a strong odor. It is used 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 was cited for one repeat, nine serious and one other than serious OSHA violations. The repeat violation was assessed 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 was cited for a similar violation.
A complete list of the citations is available. OSHA has fined the company $99,000.
Headquartered in Delaware, E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Co., (commonly known as DuPont) was founded in 1802 and was incorporated in Delaware in 1915. The company is a global leader in the agriculture and nutrition industries. DuPont employs about 63,000 people with operations in about 90 countries worldwide.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director in Houston South, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742), the agency's Houston South office at 281-286-0583 or its Houston North office at 281-591-2438.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, OSHA's role is to promote safe and healthful working conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, outreach and education. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.
OSHA News Release: [05/14/2015]
Contact Name: Juan Rodriguez
Phone Number: (972) 850-4703
Release Number: 15-0912-NAT