Fatal DuPont Chemical Spill in La Porte, Texas Demonstrates Dangers for Workers in the Industry

Four workers lost their lives and another was seriously injured during a toxic chemical leak in the DuPont plant in La Porte, Texas. Two of the victims killed in the accident were brothers, one of whom died in an unsuccessful attempt to save his brother’s life. The chemical plant accident occurred in the early morning hours of November 15, 2014, and was attributed by DuPont officials to a faulty valve on a container of methyl mercaptan. Highly flammable and toxic at higher concentrations, methyl mercaptan requires special handling in the workplace to ensure worker safety. Federal investigators from the Chemical Safety Board are already looking into the working conditions and safety practices at the La Porte plant and are likely to provide their results to the public when they are available. Safety Problems Endemic in the Industry While no responsibility has yet been assigned for the DuPont chemical plant accident in La Porte, other accidents investigated by the Chemical Safety Board have been attributed in part or in whole to the lack of safety measures implemented by employers in a variety of industries. Additionally, a number of serious accidents have been reported and investigated in just the past few years, including the following: • One worker died on November 12, 2014, at a CONSOL Energy oil well located north of Marietta, Ohio, as a result of burns sustained in an explosion at the facility. • A fire on the Eagle Ford shale oil rig located near Tilden, Texas, claimed the life of one worker and sent four more to the hospital on October 24, 2014. • The investigation is still ongoing more than two years after the Chevron refinery fire in Richmond, California, on August 6, 2012. The fire injured 19 workers and resulted in hospital visits for at least 15,000 residents in the area. • The Tesoro Refinery explosion and fire in Anacortes, Washington, on April 2, 2010, resulted in the deaths of seven workers and was specifically attributed to the company’s failure to replace a heat exchanger that had been in service for more than 40 years. The final report released by the Chemical Safety Board indicated that Tesoro employees routinely worked in dangerous conditions and that “the refinery repeatedly failed to ensure that these hazards were controlled and that the number of workers exposed to these hazards was minimized.” • An explosion and fire on April 20, 2010, on the Macondo oil rig near Venice, Louisiana, killed 11 of the 126 crew members on board the facility and spilled large quantities of crude oil and other chemicals into the Gulf of Mexico. In many cases, implementing a comprehensive safety plan can provide added protection for workers against these dangerous and deadly accidents. The financial costs of safety implementations, however, are often perceived by corporate officials as unnecessary or unmanageable expenses. As a result, safety is often one of the lowest priorities for workers in the industrial field. Injured workers and families who have experienced a Houston wrongful death in an industrial accident can often ensure a fair settlement for their losses by working with an attorney who specializes in these cases. Taking the responsible parties to court can sometimes be the only way to hold these companies accountable for their failures to protect their workers. An experienced Houston industrial accident lawyer can present evidence demonstrating negligence on the part of the employer that can ensure the maximum settlement amount both in and out of court. Large financial settlements can often be a major motivating factor for change in the chemical processing industry. By pursuing their cases in court and ensuring that companies pay for their failures to protect their employees, injured workers and their families can make a positive difference in the chemical processing and petrochemical extraction industries.