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DuPont cited by OSHA after 4 employees fatally injured at work

Several industries around the country and in Colorado routinely use chemicals that are considered dangerous if the proper safety procedures for their use and storage are not followed. One such chemical is a colorless gas called methyl mercaptan, which, at high levels, will attack the central nervous system and cause death by paralyzing the respiratory system. An incident involving this pesticide ingredient led to four men being fatally injured at work.

The employees worked for DuPont, which uses the methyl mercaptan gas in the manufacturing of a pesticide called Lannate. On Nov. 15, 2014, a worker was in a tower without protective equipment and opened a drain vent line and was unexpectedly overwhelmed by the gas. She managed to radio for help, and two other workers came to her aid, but they, too, failed to put on the proper protective gear and were also overcome.

The fourth worker realized there was a gas leak, retrieved safety equipment and attempted to rescue the three workers. Unfortunately, he also died from exposure to the gas. Two other workers managed to escape the area with their lives.

When OSHA conducted its investigation, it was discovered that employees were not properly trained on how to resolve problems with the ventilation system and to wear safety masks and equipment while working in areas where the gas was present. A spokesperson for OSHA says that a company the size of DuPont had the resources available to ensure the safety of its workers had it implemented the appropriate safety procedures. Moreover, if the company had conducted training sessions to inform workers of emergency procedures, the four employees might be alive today.

Every Colorado company is responsible for the safety of its workers. When safety is not a primary concern, the probability of an employee being injured at work rises. Workers' compensation benefits are certainly available in the event of an accident, but preventing those accidents from happening in the first place should be a priority.

Source: chron.com, "OSHA cites DuPont for violations in quadruple fatality accident", Susan Carroll and Lise Olsen, May 14, 2015

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