DuPont named severe violator by OSHA

Four workers died from exposure to methyl mercaptan during a leak at DuPont’s LaPorte, Texas, plant in November 2014. Credit: AP

Four workers died from exposure to methyl mercaptan during a leak at DuPont’s LaPorte, Texas, plant in November 2014. Credit: AP

The Department of Labor announced yesterday that the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has placed DuPont in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, following a 2014 methyl mercaptan leak that killed four workers and injured a fifth at a DuPont plant in La Porte, Texas.

In May, 2015, OSHA cited DuPont for 14 safety violations and proposed fines totaling $99,000. The citations were for:

  • 29 CPR 191 0.119(d)(3)(i)(B): Process safety information pertaining to the equipment in the process did not include the piping and instrument diagrams (P&IDs) [Serious]
  • 29 CFR 191 0.119(e)(1): The process hazard analysis was not appropriate to the complexity of the process and did not identify, evaluate, and control the hazards involved in the process [Serious]
  • 29 CFR 1910.119(e)(3)(iii): The process hazards analysis did not address Engineering and administrative controls applicable to the hazards and their interrelationships such as appropriate application of detection methodologies to provide early warning of releases [Serious]
  • 29 CFR 1910.119(f)(1)(ii)(B): The employers written operating procedures covering operating limits did not address the steps required to correct deviations [Serious]
  • 29 CFR 1910.119(f)(4): The employer did not develop and implement safe work practices to provide for the control of hazards during operations such as lockout/tagout; confined space entry; opening process equipment or piping; and control over entrance into a facility by maintenance, contractor, laboratory, or other support personnel [Serious]
  • 29 CFR 1910.119(j)(5): Equipment deficiencies [Serious]
  • 29 CPR 1910.119(1)(1): The employer did not establish and implement written procedures to manage changes to process chemicals, technology, equipment, and procedures; and, changes to facilities that affect a covered process [Serious]
  • 29 CFR 1910.119(1)( 4): Process safety information required by paragraph (d) of this section was not updated when a change covered by this paragraph resulted in a change in the process safety information [Serious]
  • 29 CFR 1910.134(c)(1)(vii) The employer failed to train employees in the respiratory hazards to which they are potentially exposed during routine situations [Serious]
  • 29 CFR 1910.165(b)(1): The employee alarm system did not provide warning for reaction time for safe escape of employees from the workplace or the immediate work area, or both [Serious]
  • 29 CFR 1910.1000(a)(1): Employee(s) were exposed to an airborne concentration of Methyl Mercaptan listed in Table Z-1 in excess of the ceiling concentration of 10 ppm [Serious]
  • 29 CFR 1910.1000(e): Administrative or engineering controls were not used and implemented to achieve compliance with the limits prescribed in 29 CFR 1910.1000(a) through (d) [Serious]
  • 29 CFR 191 0.119(g)(1 )(i): Each employee presently involved in operating a process, and each employee before being involved in operating a newly assigned process, was not trained in an overview of the process and in the operating procedures as specified in paragraph (f) of this section [Repeat]
  • 29 CPR 1910.119(h)(2)(vi): The employer shall maintain a contract employee injury and illness log related to the contractor’s work in process areas [Other-than-serious]

At the time, OSHA noted in a press release that, “The repeat violation was assessed for not training employees on using the building’s ventilation system and other safety procedures, such as how to respond if the fans stopped working. In July 2010, DuPont was cited for a similar violation.” Dow DuPont contested the fines.

But after the initial investigation, OSHA “found hazards that prompted the inspection at the facility to be expanded under the National Emphasis Program for chemical facilities,” according to a Department of Labor press release from July 9. That expanded investigation led to citations for additional violations and fines of $273,000:

  • 29 CFR 1910.119(d): The employer did not complete a compilation ofwritten process safety information pertaining to the equipment in the process [Serious]
  • 29 CFR 1910.119(e)(3)(i): The Process Hazard Analysis did not address the hazards of the process [Serious]
  • 29 CPR 191 0.119(d)(3)(ii): The employer did not document that equipment complies with recognized and generally accepted good engineering practices (RAGAGEP) [Serious]
  • 29 CPR 191 0.119(f)(1): The employer did not develop and implement written operating procedures [Serious]
  • 29 CPR 1910.119(j)(2): Written procedures. The employer did not establish and implement written procedures to maintain the on-going integrity of process equipment [Serious]
  • 29 CPR 1910.119(j)(4)(i): Inspections and tests was not performed on process equipment [Willful]
  • 29 CFR 1910.119(j)(4)(ii): Inspection and testing procedures shall follow recognized and generally accepted good engineering practices [Willful]
  • 29 CFR 191 0.119(j)(4)(iii): The frequency of inspections and tests of process equipment was not consistent with applicable manufacturers’ recommendations and good engineering practices, and more frequently if determined to be necessary by prior operating experience [Willful]
  • 29 CFR 191 0.119U)(4)(i): Inspections and tests were not performed on process equipment [Repeat]

OSHA has also placed DuPont in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which “concentrates resources on inspecting employers who have demonstrated indifference towards creating a safe and healthy workplace by committing willful or repeated violations, and/or failing to abate known hazards. It also mandates follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law,” OSHA said in the press release.

Update: C&EN’s story by Glenn Hess has comments from DuPont. For local coverage, see stories at the Houston Chronicle or Texas Tribune.

Author: Jyllian Kemsley

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  1. I believe the statement in the paragraph after the first bulleted list should be “DuPont contested the fines” not Dow.

  2. Where are you now Maxwell? You know an ex DD manager. This
    is the at least the third major entity to call out DuPont on safety. The
    response again from PR puppet Aaron Woods? Well the same as it has been all
    along…boiler plate rhetoric.
    DuPont has has two poor quarters in a row and headed for a
    third. Ellen Kullman and her top managers all took raises during this time
    while denying raises to the workers. IT IS TIME For ELLEN KULLMAN TO STEP
    DOWN. Her safety record is amongst the
    worst ever seen in the company as a CEO. Yes Maxwell it is true, there have
    been 6 deaths in five years under her watch. Do you think the bonus she got
    payed could have repaired the ventilation in the unit Maxwell? We aren’t
    talking a few thousand dollars here Maxwell now are we?
    OSHA put the company she leads into the SEVERE VIOLATORS
    program, and their response? Well again let’s not address the 4 deaths and make
    sure their families are taken care of but let’s get caught up and in a proxy
    fight costing millions and millions of dollars.
    It seems Ellen Kullmans MIND IS NOT ON TASK and her CORE
    VALUES have dissipated.
    Ellen, do the right thing and step down and let someone with
    high character, and core values lead the company from the hole you have put it
    Don’t forget to hold the hand rail, but don’t worry about
    the fans in the unit. Sound about right Maxwell?

  3. DuPont, who made millions selling it’s safety program to many companies, has been cutting budgets in it’s Safety programs for several years now. Also cutting budgets in Maintenance and Emergency Response programs. These cuts on top of whittling away at employee benefits and bonuses. Seems accountability to the major shareholders and continued big bonuses to the top executive tier have become DuPont’s top priority. Employees are dejected and not putting their “all” into their jobs like they once did. It does not feel like a family any more. Most are wondering what the next cuts will be. Where does it end and how many more will get hurt before DuPont revisits a time when they truly were a leader in Safety?

  4. It is easy said than done.
    I still believe in most of Dupont’s sites, safety performance is good. But just as safety prymaid theroy, for that site, too many issues happened. Safety deserves attendtion.

  5. Particularly interesting given how much DuPont advertises in major safety publications and, as Mark mentioned, how much they push their own safety training programs and videos.

    The NSC’s Safety + Health magazine was regularly featuring their ads…I wonder if they’ll continue to take DuPont’s advertising dollars as they have in the past.