OSHA Blasts DuPont for Causing Gas Deaths of 4 Workers

Saturday, May 16, 2015
(photo: Marie D. De Jesus, Houston Chronicle, AP)

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited DuPont in the deaths of four workers at a La Porte, Texas, chemical plant last year.


The four died from breathing the toxic gas methyl mercaptan, which is one of the ingredients used to make the pesticide Lannate. One worker was overcome when opening a drain line and three others, including two brothers, died when trying to rescue the first worker. DuPont was cited Thursday for a total of 11 violations—one repeat, nine serious and one other-than-serious, according to the Houston Chronicle. The repeat violation was for the company’s failure to train employees on how to use the facility’s ventilation system, as well as other safety procedures.


“Four people lost their lives and their families lost loved ones because DuPont did not have proper safety procedures in place,” Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health David Michaels said. “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.”


Despite the tough words, OSHA proposed a fine of only $99,000 for the violations that led to four deaths. Considering DuPont generated $34.7 billion in revenue last year, the fine won’t amount to so much as a blip in the company’s annual report.


OSHA also ordered DuPont to implement scores of safety upgrades in its LaPorte facility.


“There’s no excuse for a chemical company with DuPont’s resources to have such gross and repeated failures in how it manages its chemical processes and prepares for emergencies,” former OSHA official and workplace safety expert Celeste Monforton told the Chronicle.


Ventilation fans on the Lannate unit, which normally clean the air, had been broken for months before the accident but workers had not been instructed to use additional protection while working in the unit, according to the Chronicle.


Speaking to the newspaper in response to the OSHA citation, DuPont spokesman Aaron Woods insisted that “safety is a core value and constant priority at DuPont.”

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

OSHA Cites DuPont for Violations in Quadruple Fatality Accident (by Susan Carroll and Lise Olsen, Houston Chronicle)

OSHA Says DuPont Could Have Saved Four Workers Killed by Lethal Gas (Corporate Crime Reporter)

DuPont Insecticide Plant where 4 Workers Died hadn’t been Inspected in 7 Years (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman)


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