OSHA: Better Safety Measures Could Have Saved DuPont Workers Killed By Gas

Federal labor officials announced 11 citations and nearly $100,000 in fines for DuPont.

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Federal labor officials last week announced 11 citations and nearly $100,000 in fines for DuPont following an investigation into a deadly gas leak at a Texas chemical plant.

Four workers died in November 2014 when high levels of the toxic gas methyl mercaptan escaped from a drain at the chemical company's La Porte pesticide facility.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said that DuPont officials failed to adequately assess risks and did not properly train workers. The agency cited DuPont for a repeat violation -- the most serious of the 11 charges levied -- of improper training regarding ventilation systems.

Reports indicated the ventilation fans in the plant's Lannate insecticide unit were broken for months at the time of the accident. DuPont was cited for a similar violation in 2010.

"Four people lost their lives and their families lost loved ones because DuPont did not have proper safety procedures in place," OSHA chief David Michaels said in a statement. "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 company has 15 business days after receiving the OSHA citations to comply, request a conference with area OSHA officials or contest its findings.

DuPont responded that it is reviewing the OSHA findings and that the pesticide facilities remains shuttered pending the results of an internal review.

“Safety is a core value and constant priority at DuPont. Our response to this tragedy reinforces our absolute focus on safety and enables us to learn from it so that we can find ways to be an even better company,” the company said.

Critics, however, contrasted the $99,000 in proposed fines to DuPont's annual revenue of some $35 billion. 

"There's no excuse for a chemical company with DuPont's resources to have such gross and repeated failures in how it manages it chemical processes and prepares for emergencies," Celeste Monforton, a former OSHA official, told the Houston Chronicle.

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