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DuPont labeled a “severe” safety violator by U.S. regulator

Chemical giant criticized by the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration for worker deaths in Nov. 2014.


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July 11, 2015 by Canadian Plastics

U.S. regulators have placed chemical maker DuPont in its “severe violator enforcement program” for a massive November 2014 gas leak that killed four workers at a plant in Texas.

The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration said the accident shows the company had a “failed safety program,” that the deaths were preventable, and that the incident revealed hazards that undermine the company’s claims of a world-class safety culture.

The agency had previously cited Wilmington, Del.-based DuPont for 11 safety violations related to the deaths at the La Porte, Tex., plant, and on July 9 announced an additional eight offences, including three “willful” violations. The agency has proposed penalties of US$273,000 for the new violations.

OSHA also placed DuPont in a program that scrutinizes employers that show “indifference” to creating a safe workplace. The decision means DuPont’s La Porte plant will be subject to follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law.

The Nov. 15 accident resulted in the release of more than 23,000 pounds of methyl mercaptan. At dangerous levels of exposure, the gas depresses the central nervous system and affects the respiratory centre, producing death by respiratory paralysis, according to OSHA.

The La Porte plant employs more than 300 workers who make pesticides and other chemicals.

“We have not had a chance to review OSHA’s findings in detail; we will work with the agency to better understand the citations and any further required abatement,” DuPont said in a statement. “Operating the La Porte site safely is our number one priority.”