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More details emerge around methyl mercaptan leak at DuPont plant

The facts surrounding the fatal chemical leak at a DuPont plant in LaPorte, Texas, continue to surface. As we discussed in a December post, four workers died of asphyxiation when an estimated 23,000 pounds of methyl mercaptan leaked from the plant. Methyl mercaptan is a toxic chemical used to make plastics and insecticides, and to make natural gas smell like rotten eggs.

Now it has come to light that a ventilation system at the plant regularly malfunctioned, and workers were exposed to potentially harmful gases years before the accident that recently took four workers' lives. According to the Houston Chronicle, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) received reports on the malfunctioning equipment in 2009 and 2010, but OSHA did not investigate for threats to worker safety.

It was also reported that maintenance work was done at the plant without the proper use of respirators. That fact seems to align with the manner in which the four workers died in November: accidental asphyxiation.

The TCEQ has also cited the plant more than two dozen times in the last five years for various violations, including failure to prevent chemical leaks.

Lawsuits against DuPont have been brought by the victims' family members.

One trouble with large industrial companies is that they often have significant monetary resources to cover safety-related fines and lawsuits that would be crippling to a smaller business. This reality does not place large plants and industrial facilities above the law.

To learn more about holding negligent employers responsible for workplace accidents, please visit the main work accident website of The Shelton Law Firm.

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