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DuPont Challenges Fines Levied For Deadly Methyl Mercaptan Leak

Safety: Company appeals Occupational Safety & Health Administration’s findings and $99,000 penalty

by Andrea Widener
July 6, 2015 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 93, Issue 27

DuPont is contesting multiple safety citations from the Occupational Safety & Health Administration related to an accident that killed four workers at the company’s La Porte, Texas, facility.

In May, OSHA cited the plant for 11 safety violations and fined DuPont a total of $99,000 for the November 2014 leak of methyl mercaptan. The accident and subsequent deaths at the facility, which manufactures pesticides and other chemicals, could have been avoided, the agency found.

When cited, companies have 15 days to appeal OSHA’s findings, and they commonly do. DuPont last month notified the agency that it would contest the violations. “We are working with OSHA to better understand the citations and the associated abatement requirements,” says DuPont spokesman Aaron Woods.

DuPont’s appeal angers worker representatives, who say the move shows little sensitivity. “They are going to pay more than $100,000 to their lawyers,” says Brent W. Coon, an attorney who represents the family of one worker who died. “It is not the amount of money they are going to be fined that’s the issue.”

During the appeal process, OSHA and companies sometimes come to a negotiated settlement that helps to correct cited safety violations. If that doesn’t happen, the case goes to the Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission, an independent agency that adjudicates challenges to OSHA citations and penalties.


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