DuPont Insecticide Plant where 4 Workers Died hadn’t been Inspected in 7 Years

Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Robert and Gilbert Tisnado (photo: Tisnado family)

Four workers at a DuPont chemical plant in Texas died last weekend following a chemical leak. The industrial facility in La Porte hadn’t undergone federal safety inspections since 2007.

 

The discharge of a poisonous gas, methyl mercaptan (pdf)—which is used in the production of the company’s popular insecticide, Lannate—killed the four employees and hospitalized a fifth. Two of those killed were brothers, Robert and Gilbert Tisnado. Gilbert’s widow, Michelle, has filed a million-dollar wrongful death suit against DuPont and the facility’s plant manager, Randall Clements.

 

DuPont released a statement saying that the workers had responded to a reported leak in a valve. It was later determined that the faulty valve had released about 100 pounds of the deadly gas into the air throughout the plant.

 

Inspectors from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration hadn’t checked the plant in seven years. At that time two serious violations for safe management of highly hazardous chemicals were issued. But the total in fines amounted to only $3,400.

 

DuPont was hit with tougher penalties by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) after the agency found violations of hazardous waste management and air emissions standards. EPA fined the company $117,375, according to The Wall Street Journal.

 

The 600-acre plant, which manufactures pesticides and plastics, also has been cited by Texas regulators for repeatedly breaking state laws involving safety inspections, preventing pollution leaks and other concerns.

 

A team from the Chemical Safety Board was dispatched to the site to investigate the deaths in the recent incident. The agency previously investigated accidents at other DuPont plants, including two that were fatal.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Danny Biederman

 

To Learn More:

Chemical Plant Where 4 Workers Died Hadn’t Had Workplace Safety Inspection In 7 Years (by Bryce Covert, Think Progress)

Investigators to Probe DuPont’s Deadly Texas Chemical Leak (by Daniel Gilbert, Wall Street Journal)

Plant Where Workers Died Reported Recent Violations (by Neena Satija, Texas Tribune)

Widow Sues DuPont for Fatal Gas Leak (by Cameron Langford, Courthouse News Service)

 

Comments

ChrisPA 1 year ago
Safety starts at the top of an organization. This takes management commitment, worker buy-in and of course resources, which means cash. The recent trend in the corporation starts with Ellen Kullman. Her record in safety is amongst the worst of any CEO to ever lead the company. She has taken large bonuses while cutting workers and the resources to put safety first. Many times DuPont takes the "blame the worker" stance on incidents. This tends to be self serving and does not really address the issues going on in the corporation. Under her leadership the trend has been one of a knee jerk reaction and is evident in this most recent tragedy. The statement that we will do a "top to bottom investigation" is such a reaction. Where was the commitment before the incident? the resources? the preventative maintenance? the inspection and all of the other key elements in a good Process Safety Management (PSM) program? This does not however fix the broader issues that exist. It would be interesting to see if there have been cuts at the plant recently especially in light of the attempt to spin off its performance chemicals. The real issues are never addressed when she sends Aaron Woods to the podium as her PR puppet, to make blanket statements such as "safety is a core value". Mr Woods knows nothing of PSM and his statements are to fend off litigation that always follows tragedy. This does nothing to protect the workers. The recent trend within the corporation has been of increased incidents, increased exposures, and sadly increased deaths. The company continues to spew toxic chemicals into the atmosphere. Is this the kind of "core value" you want in your company? Is the the kind of chemical company you want in your back yard?

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