As suspected, a November 15 chemical plant accident in La Porte, Texas, could likely have been prevented if the proper inspections, equipment repairs and maintenance had been performed. The incident, which occurred at a DuPont chemical plant and resulted in four fatalities, involved the accidental release of methyl mercaptan, a highly flammable gas that is stored as a liquid but vaporizes at room temperature. In his testimony before Senate committees overseeing environmental and labor issues, U.S. Chemical Safety Board chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso reported the findings of inspectors who were sent to the plant immediately after the incident occurred. In news that is sure to cause raised eyebrows among Houston industrial accident lawyers and others whose work involves chemical plant disasters, it appears that a number of violations are to blame for the tragedy. According to Harris County medical examiners, the four workers perished due to asphyxiation. Based on the inspection's findings, here is how things most likely unfolded: When workers attempted to restart equipment in a multi-story part of the building, a clogged pipe leading from a methyl mercaptan storage tank forced the poisonous gas into nearby vents. The ventilation system has a history of problems concerning the buildup of liquids, and workers opened a valve in an attempt to drain it. Upon doing so, methyl mercaptan poured out. DuPont has gone on the record confirming that this is the most likely scenario. It is believed that more than 23,000 pounds of methyl mercaptan and, possibly, other chemicals, were released. Because methyl mercaptan vaporizes at room temperature, it immediately filled the enclosed building. Ventilation fans were not working at the time, and this undoubtedly exacerbated the problem. Still, even if they had been working, it is unclear whether it would have made a difference. What is clear is that although respirators are available in the facility, their use is not enforced. Workers routinely go without them, and that is what happened on the day of the tragedy. If the workers had been using them, their odds of survival would have been significantly improved. DuPont is one of the largest chemical manufacturing companies of its kind, and it is generally regarded as one of the safest. Despite that, the La Porte plant has a long, troubled history regarding workplace safety. It was cited at least 25 times for state law violations, for instance, and the EPA has reported the facility to be non-compliant with crucial air emission and hazardous waste management standards. The agency has fined DuPont upwards of $100,000 for these issues. As previous reported, the DuPont plant in La Porte had gone seven years since its last OSHA safety inspection. Tragically, if an inspection had been performed more recently, there is a good chance that this Houston wrongful death in industrial accident incident could have been avoided. The men who were killed in the DuPont chemical plant accident were trying to escape. In fact, one came back in an attempt to rescue his brother, and he ultimately perished too. One worker escaped and recovered after being hospitalized. The surrounding area was deemed safe by inspectors, but that does not lessen the magnitude of this tragedy. The fact is that workers had reported ongoing maintenance problems and had complained numerous times about inadequate ventilation in the building. Still, DuPont took no steps to address these concerns, and it all came to a head on November 15. Without Houston industrial accident lawyers, incidents like these would occur even more frequently. Workers who are injured or killed in such incidents are more than statistics. To prevent similar accidents in the future, companies like DuPont must be held accountable. Clearly, based on what happened on November 15 in La Porte, we still have a long way to go.