The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited DuPont for exposing employees to hazardous chemicals following a fatal workplace incident in January at the company's Belle, W.Va., plant.
OSHA initiated an investigation in January when a worker was exposed to a fatal amount of phosgene due to a ruptured hose. The investigation was subsequently expanded to cover two additional chemical releases that occurred at the plant involving oleum and hexazinone, as part of OSHA's National Emphasis Program on Process Safety Management at covered chemical facilities.
"OSHA's process safety management standard requires that companies anticipate the possible hazards associated with processes involving highly hazardous chemicals like phosgene and oleum," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels. "Workers are left vulnerable to life-threatening or permanent injuries and illness when these processes are not done in a thorough and comprehensive way."
As a result of the investigation, OSHA has cited DuPont with six serious violations including the company's failure to properly inspect piping used to transfer phosgene, perform a thorough process hazard analysis for its phosgene operation, train workers on hazards associated with phosgene, thoroughly inspect all high-risk sections of piping used to transfer oleum, and properly install energized electrical conductors. OSHA issues a serious citation when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard the employer knew or should have known about.
The company was also cited for five other-than-serious violations due to improper recordkeeping. Proposed penalties total $43,000. Detailed information about OSHA's PSM standard is available online at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/processsafetymanagement/index.html.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director in Charleston, W.Va., or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.