Last Saturday, November 15, an accidental release of the chemical methyl mercaptan, at a DuPont Chemical plant in La Porte, Texas resulted in the deaths of four workers. As a result, the plant is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA).
Despite the fact that methyl mercaptan is an extremely poisonous gas, as well as the main chemical component of Lannate, which is a pesticide produced at the plant, this will mark the first time OSHA has visited the plant in more than seven years. This despite the fact that use of the chemical is subject to numerous federal safety and environmental regulations.
According to reports, the workers who were killed in the accidental release were Crystle Wise, Wade Baker, and two brothers; Robert and Gilbert “Gibby” Tisnado. The chemical release, which preliminary reports say was due to a “faulty valve,” began early Saturday morning. “Gibby” rushed in wearing a gas mask to save his brother, but both brothers and their two co-workers succumbed to the chemical’s toxicity. In all, 100 pounds of the chemical were released that morning.
Reports from the coroner’s office released Wednesday, Nov. 19 suggested that the victims of the accident had not been wearing the safety equipment needed to protect themselves from a highly toxic chemical like methyl mercaptan.
OSHA records also show that their inspectors last inspected the plant in 2007, at which time the plant was cited for two serious violations of regulations regarding proper handling of hazardous chemicals. At that time, the plant was fined $3,400. Within the last five years, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has cited the plant more than 20 times for their failure to comply with regulations requiring them to “perform routine safety inspections, keep equipment in proper working order and prevent unauthorized pollution leaks.”
The funerals for the four victims of this terrible tragedy are being held this weekend. They should be unnecessary, because large and small employers have an absolute responsibility under the law to keep workers safe. Without a doubt, federal and state officials have to do more to enforce workplace safety regulations, especially with those companies that have demonstrated a disregard for such laws in the past. However, employers who don’t follow these laws, which can lead to serious injuries or deaths, still need to be held accountable for their negligent actions, regardless of the level of oversight.
Every worker, regardless of industry, is entitled to a workplace that is as safe as possible. If you or someone you love has been seriously injured or killed at any job site in the state of Texas, contact the Texas Workplace Safety Lawyers at Hill Law Firm today, so that we can discuss this, and we can help you protect your legal rights.