Last November, four workers at a DuPont Co. plant in La Porte, Texas were killed after being exposed to a deadly airborne chemical called methyl mercaptan, a substance used by the plant to produce insecticide. The accident occurred early in the morning when a worker tried to drain what she thought was water from a clogged pipeline (a routine procedure) when the chemical flowed into the building. A total of 23,000 pounds of methyl mercaptan, which workers also refer to as MeSH, was released, immediately killing the worker and three other people who came to her aid. If the chemicals had not been quickly controlled, the major gas leak could have sparked a fire or caused an explosion capable of poisoning the air in surrounding areas.
The accident was ultimately blamed on a flawed network of valves and pipes, a poor ventilation system, and an inadequate warning system. (At the time of the accident, the ventilation fans were not operating, and one was even partially dismantled. However, investigators found that even if they had been operational, they would not have provided enough protection to keep workers safe.)
While DuPont has been praised in the past for safety by industry watchdogs, the plant has been cited dozens of times in the past several years for dangerous chemical releases. The La Porte plant incident is one of three investigations of fatal accidents within the past five years. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has placed DuPont on its “severe violator enforcement program” and has proposed fines totaling $372,000.
The tragic deaths at the DuPont facility were entirely avoidable. Unbeknownst to the victims and the rest of the workers in their shift, a delivery of chemicals from a few days earlier had been improperly loaded into the process tank, resulting in the wrong concentration. Combined with chronic malfunctions and flaws, the broken ventilation system, and the wintry weather that caused the methyl mercaptan to clog the pipe, this was a disaster waiting to happen.
Industrial accidents can be some of the most devastating types of accidents, often resulting in catastrophic injuries and fatalities. They are especially likely to occur in Texas’s burgeoning oil and gas industries and are often the result of lax safety procedures. Fires, explosions, and machinery mishaps are far too prevalent in today’s news, and regulators are cracking down on dangerous workplaces throughout Texas and the rest of the country.
The attorneys at Fibich, Leebron, Copeland & Briggs have dedicated themselves to holding negligent companies accountable for preventable workplace accidents. Companies have a duty to keep their employees safe, and any failure to take reasonable measures to do so makes them financially responsible for any accidents caused by their carelessness.
If you have lost a friend or family member in an industrial accident, you should know that you have options to pursue justice on behalf of your loved one. We are ready to stand in your corner and fight for the compensation you deserve for the loss of love, guidance, and emotional and financial support you used to enjoy with your spouse, child, sibling, or parent.
We invite you to discuss your case with our caring, compassionate team during an initial consultation. Please call us today at (713) 496-0549.
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