ADVERTISEMENT
2 /3 FREE ARTICLES LEFT THIS MONTH Remaining
Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.

If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.

ENJOY UNLIMITED ACCES TO C&EN

Safety

Government Cites DuPont For Chemical Leak That Killed Four Workers

Plant Safety: Serious failures in 2014 toxic release at Texas plant found by Occupational Safety & Health Administration investigators

by Glenn Hess
May 21, 2015 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 93, ISSUE 21

[+]Enlarge
Credit: AP
Four workers died from exposure to methyl mercaptan at DuPont’s La Porte, Texas, plant in November 2014.
09321-notw7-dupontcxd.jpg
Credit: AP
Four workers died from exposure to methyl mercaptan at DuPont’s La Porte, Texas, plant in November 2014.

DuPont has been cited by federal investigators for 11 violations related to a chemical leak at the company’s plant in La Porte, Texas, that claimed the lives of four workers.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) said the tragedy would have been prevented had DuPont taken steps to protect the workers. The agency is proposing fines totaling $99,000 for the November 2014 deaths, which were caused by exposure to a leak of methyl mercaptan, an insectide ingredient.

An investigation by OSHA determined that one worker was overcome when “methyl mercaptan gas was unexpectedly released” after she opened a drain on a vent line. Two coworkers nearby, unaware of the leak, attempted to save her but were also consumed by the gas. The brother of one of the victims rushed to rescue the three but was also overcome by the gas.

“Four people lost their lives and their families lost loved ones because DuPont did not have proper safety procedures in place,” says OSHA chief 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 accident occurred in a unit that manufactures methomyl, a carbamate insecticide DuPont markets under the trade name Lannate.

DuPont says it is reviewing OSHA’s findings and has taken “a series of actions to prevent this from ever happening again.” The company says the unit remains shut down while it conducts “completely new process hazards analyses, acting on findings from our own investigation.”

Methyl mercaptan, one of the ingredients used to make methomyl, is a colorless gas. At dangerous levels of exposure, the gas depresses the central nervous system and affects the respiratory center, producing death by respiratory paralysis, according to OSHA.

DuPont was cited for one repeat violation, nine serious violations, and one other-than-serious OSHA violation. 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.

Advertisement
X

Article:

This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Comments
Patricia Williams (May 22, 2015 12:10 PM)
Why are the damages so incredibly low?

To have such a minor "slap on the wrist" for egregious safety violations degrades our moral and ethical expectations of a good society.
A Peacock (May 27, 2015 11:36 AM)
Only $99,000? The fine for deflating a football is more expensive than causing the deaths of four people?
Cheryl Hogue (May 27, 2015 4:00 PM)
Patricia, thanks for your comment. By law, which Congress wrote, the maximum penalty that OSHA can seek for each serious violation is $7,000.

You might be interested in this safety and health academic's take on the proposed fine: http://scienceblogs.com/thepumphandle/2015/05/22/osha-gives-dupont-a-50-discount-on-penalty-for-death-of-4-workers/

Leave A Comment

*Required to comment