DuPont Named ‘Severe Violator’ By OSHA After Texas Herbicide Factory Deaths

The U.S. Department of Labor has placed DuPont Co. in a “severe violators” program following the deaths of at least four workers last year at the Texas factory, and the company may face more than a quarter million dollars in fines. 

In a news release issued this week, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said that the deaths of the four plant workers in the LaPorte, Texas facility occurred after a supply line released more than 20,000 pounds of methyl mercaptan, a very lethal chemical. OSHA officials said an inspection the Texas chemical manufacturing plant committed “serious, willful and repeat violations.”

The accident occurred in November 2014, overcoming one worker. Three other coworkers came to the employee’s aid, however all four were fatally asphyxiated by the gas, which is colorless, flammable and highly toxic.

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The facility manufactures pesticides and other potentially lethal chemicals for various purposes.

The initial OSHA probe found hazards that prompted the investigation to be widened under the National Emphasis Program for chemical facilities.

The inspection included an investigation into the safety practices of DuPont. OSHA launched then launched a second investigation into the incident and safety practices of the company and today issued citations with proposed penalties of $273,000. The citations included three willful, one repeat and four serious violations.

DuPont was placed in the severe violator enforcement program as a result. The program focuses on companies that have demonstrated “indifference towards creating a safe and healthy workplace.” This includes committing willful and repeated violations and failing to intervene or abate potential hazards, which DuPont has been identified as doing.

The program mandates follow-up inspections to ensure the company is following regulations and ensuring compliance to safety standards.

Violations at the DuPont facility included failing to address and control the hazards of the Hexazinone process, failing to have equipment which is compliant with engineering practices, failing to develop written operating procedures for various phases of manufacturing, failing to perform inspections and tests for processing equipment, and failing to maintain the frequency of tests and inspections, among other violations.

“DuPont promotes itself as having a ‘world-class safety’ culture and even markets its safety expertise to other employers, but these four preventable workplace deaths and the very serious hazards we uncovered at this facility are evidence of a failed safety program,” Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels said in the press release. “Nothing can bring these workers back to their loved ones. I hope that our continued scrutiny into this facility and into working conditions at other DuPont plants will mean no family ever suffers this loss again. We here at OSHA want DuPont and the chemical industry as a whole to hear this message loud and clear.”

The DuPont headquarters in Delaware was also cited for eight serious and one repeat violation concerning fatalities. The facility was cited a penalty of $99,000 for several fatalities.

The Darrow, Louisiana, facility was also cited in November 2014 as well as the Deepwater, New Jersey facility in December 2014.

OSHA indicates DuPont employs more than 63,000 people in more than 90 countries globally. The LaPorte, Texas facility employs 313 workers.


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