The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited DuPont $43,000 for subjecting its employees to toxic chemicals after a fatal workplace incident in January at the company’s Belle, West Virginia, plant. OSHA launched its investigation in January after a plant worker was exposed to fatal levels of phosgene, a colorless gas that was used as a chemical weapon in World War I.
OSHA’s investigation subsequently expanded to two additional chemical releases that occurred at the same plant involving oleum, a sulfuric acid solution, and hexazinone, a potent herbicide.
Last year, OSHA launched its National Emphasis Program (“NEP”) for chemical facilities. OSHA’s Chemical NEP established inspection guidelines to ensure corporations comply with Process Safety Management standards governing the production and handling of highly hazardous chemicals.
“OSHA’s process safety management standard requires that companies anticipate the possible hazards associated with processes involving highly hazardous chemicals like phosgene and oleum,” said OSHA chief Dr. David Michaels. “Workers are left vulnerable to life-threatening or permanent injuries and illness when these processes are not done in a thorough and comprehensive way.”
OSHA’s investigation found DuPont with six serious violations, including failure to properly inspect piping used to transfer phosgene, failure to perform a thorough process hazard analysis for its phosgene operation, failure to train workers on hazards associated with phosgene gas, failure to thoroughly inspect all high-risk sections of piping used to transfer oleum, and failure to properly install energized electrical conductors.
OSHA cites employers with serious violations when it finds employers subject their workers to a significant risk of death or serious physical harm with workplace hazards that the employer knew or should have known about.
The company was also cited for five other violations due to improper recordkeeping. DuPont has 15 business days from receipt of citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director in Charleston, or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Click here for a list of itemized OSHA citations at the DuPont plant.