Fatal Accident at DuPont Caused by Flawed Safety Culture

In only five years, DuPont experienced three separate fatal industrial accidents. The last one occurred on November 15, 2014 in La Porte, Texas, and it was the most destructive of the three. In the latest incident, a chemical leak at the plant caused four workers including two brothers to lose their lives. This is an example of a time when a call to a Houston industrial accident attorney is warranted. The Events of November 15, 2014 in La Porte Methyl mercaptan began to leak from an operations building at around 4:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. Workers needed approximately two hours to contain the leak of nearly 23,000 pounds of poisonous gas. About 12 hours later, DuPont confirmed that four people from the crop protection unit perished in the incident, including 48-year-old Gilbert Tisnado and his brother 39-year-old Robert Tisnado. The crew’s supervisor Wade Baker and a female employee were also killed. The CSB’s Investigation Whenever there is a Houston wrongful death in an industrial accident, an inquiry must be initiated to learn the causes of the tragedy. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board or CSB is one agency that performs this type of work. During the CSB’s investigation, the seven-member team came to some enlightening conclusions. The board’s chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso stated that DuPont’s building had flaws that allowed this Houston chemical plant accident to happen, but he also stated that DuPont has a problem in its safety culture. Managing director of the CSB Daniel Horowitz stated that leaks of methyl mercaptan are extremely rare. As a matter of fact, the DuPont leak is the first time his agency has ever been faced with a fatality that was due to this type of leakage. He pointed out that methyl mercaptan is such a dangerous chemical that it requires the most stringent regulatory measures, and that it is highly unusual for a methyl mercaptan leak to cause the death of so many people. For this reason, he is searching for the answers to several questions that will help him prevent this type of catastrophe from occurring in the future. The DuPont Building’s Issues The first problem the agency found is the fact that the ventilation system was broken. This caused the dangerous chemical methyl mercaptan to build up unbeknownst to workers and administrators. This was a perilous situation because liquid methyl mercaptan turns into a deadly gas when it is allowed to mix with oxygen. In addition, the ventilation fans were inoperable. The vent system contains several links that lead to the methyl mercaptan supply line. Because of the building’s faulty design, liquid methyl mercaptan accumulated within the vents. This made it necessary for workers to drain the liquid by hand, and that is when they were exposed to the chemicals. Exposure to this gas can cause serious symptoms to develop in humans, but the effects are even more harmful when methyl mercaptan leaks in an enclosed area that is poorly ventilated. However, the ventilation system could have been functional, and it would not necessarily have kept workers safe from danger according to Moure-Eraso. Common Problems that Cause Chemical Plant Accidents Moure-Eraso stressed that chemical plant accidents have many things in common, including permissive guidelines governing the industry and ineffective regulations. In addition, they tend to have flaws in how the plant was designed and dysfunctional safety procedures. These common causes have been noted in cases that any experienced Houston work injury attorney would be aware of. DuPont’s Response In a statement released February 5, executives with DuPont expressed their commitment to providing a safe workplace for their employees. In the statement, executives claimed that they work on an ongoing basis to improve safety measures ever since they first implemented safety rules in 1811 when their company first began operating. They are conducting discussions with members of the CSB to learn where the problems lie and how they can fix them.