OSHA Cites DuPont in La Porte Fatalities

The four workers who died were exposed to methyl mercaptan gas after one of them opened a drain on a methyl mercaptan vent line, according to OSHA's investigation.

OSHA announced an enforcement action last week against DuPont in connection with the deaths of four workers last November at a facility in La Porte, Texas, saying the company could have prevented it. OSHA cited DuPont for 11 safety violations and identified scores of safety upgrades the company must implement to prevent future accidents at its Lannate/API manufacturing building in La Porte. Workers there manufacture crop protection materials and chemicals.

The workers who died were exposed to methyl mercaptan gas when one of them opened a drain on a methyl mercaptan vent line, according to OSHA's investigation. Two co-workers who attempted to help her were overcome, and fourth co-worker – the brother of one of the fallen men – tried to rescue them and also died.

"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 Dr. 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."

Methyl mercaptan, a colorless gas with a strong odor, is used in pesticides, jet fuels, and plastics. DuPont was cited for one repeat, nine serious, and one other than serious violations. The repeat violation was assessed for not training employees on using the building's ventilation system and other safety procedures, because DuPont was also cited for a similar violation in July 2010, according to OSHA, which has proposed $99,000 in penalties

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