Jul 15, 2015

​OSHA labels DuPont ‘severe’ safety violator with proposed $99,000 in fines via @kenwardjr

Federal officials this week labeled DuPont Co. a "severe violator" of worker safety rules, after uncovering more safety problems in an investigation launched following a massive toxic gas leak that killed four workers at the company's La Porte, Texas, plant last November.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration promised the move would bring closer scrutiny for DuPont facilities around the country, but did not fully explain how agency inspectors would apply the initiative to three dozen facilities — including two in West Virginia — that DuPont last week spun off into a separate company called Chemours.

"OSHA is currently evaluating how to proceed further in this case," agency spokesman Juan J. Rodriguez said in an email response to questions about the situation.

In May, OSHA had proposed $99,000 in fines for violations related to the Nov. 15 leak of methyl mercaptan that killed four workers at the Texas facility. On Thursday, agency officials announced another $274,000 in proposed fines for additional violations OSHA inspectors found in an expanded review at the La Porte operation.

OSHA also said it was adding DuPont to what agency officials call their "Severe Violator Enforcement Program," or SVEP. An agency press release said the program "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." The program "also mandates follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law," the release said.

"DuPont promotes itself as having a 'world-class safety' culture and even markets its safety expertise to other employers, but these four preventable workplace deaths and the very serious hazards we uncovered at this facility are evidence of a failed safety program," said David Michaels, the Obama administration's assistant secretary of labor in charge of OSHA.

Dan Taylor, a DuPont spokesman, said that the company "is disappointed with OSHA's classification" and would "be working with the agency to understand its decision."

Jeff Dugas, a spokesman for the Keep Your Promises DuPont campaign, which has been monitoring impacts of the Chemours spinoff, said his organization wanted to take a closer look at how OSHA would be treating the former DuPont facilities now owned by the Chemours.

"It would certainly seem to me that the spinoff should not be an excuse for any recently spun-off DuPont facilities to escape any additional regulatory scrutiny," Dugas said Friday....

Read full from  Ken Ward Jr., Staff writer at wvgazette.com and follow @kenwardjr on Twitter.