Had DuPont followed its own safety recommendations, it might have avoided a series of accidents at its Belle, W.Va., plant in 2010 that caused the deathof one worker, the Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) concluded in a preliminary report, released on July 7 at a news conference in Washington, D.C.
The death was caused by a braided pipe that burst, spraying a worker with phosgene (C&EN, Feb. 1, 2010, page 8). DuPont records show that the pipe had not been maintained properly and that the company was aware of the safety issue and was considering upgrading to a safer pipe material and improving other phosgene safety measures. But the firm never made the changes, CSB found.
“These kinds of findings would cause us great concern at any chemical plant, but particularly at DuPont, with its historically strong work and safety culture,” CSB member John Bresland said at the news conference. “I would hope that DuPont officials are examining the safety culture company-wide.”
DuPont says it has completed its own investigation of the accidents and is fully cooperating with CSB as well as state and federal agencies. The company also says it has implemented many of the recommendations of the CSB report for the Belle facility. These include performing an intensive safety operations review, improving the hose maintenance system, strengthening its process hazards review system, and initiating a new alarm management system.
CSB will accept public comments on its draft report through Aug. 22.