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West Virginia chemical plant violations settled after seven years

It is no surprise that most businesses are driven by the two “P’s”: production and profit. But focusing on those without paying equal attention to safety can result in serious consequences for workers, even death. An incident that happened over seven years ago at a West Virginia chemical facility is a tragic example.

In 2008, an explosion at Bayer Crop science caused the deaths of two workers. Since then, investigations have been conducted by OSHA, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice. The company recently agreed to pay $5.6 million in a settlement with the EPA and DOJ to rectify its procedures and to improve safety and emergency response operations in the vicinity of the facility.

The investigations led to discovery of several ways that the facility had failed to protect its workers including lack of sufficient attention to safety and accident prevention. Reports said that, even though the facility had some safety procedures in place, its failure to follow them contributed to the explosion. A safety interlock that had been installed was not engaged properly and employees were not sufficiently trained to understand the digital control system that controlled the interlock device.

Other factors included the facility’s rush to resume production after it had been halted during a lengthy maintenance period. An investigation by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board showed that proper start-up procedures were not followed including equipment checks and computer calibration. The company had already paid fines of $143,000 as a result of an OSHA investigation inspection performed by the agency after the incident.

Unfortunately, no amount of money paid to rectify the situation almost eight years later will compensate the families for the loss of their loved ones. In many instances, workers’ compensation death benefits may be the only avenue available to the survivors. Any workplace accident involving injury may require an award of benefits from the employer. An attorney familiar with West Virginia workers’ compensation law can help determine what benefits may be due to a worker or his or her family in the event of death.

Source:  Environmental Health & Safety Today, “Bayer Cropscience Reaches $5.6 Million Settlement with EPA and DOJ over West Virginia Violations,” Sandy Smith, Oct. 5, 2015

Secondary Source: Safety News Alert, “Bayer to pay $5.6 million in double-fatal explosion and fire,” Fred Hosier, Sept. 24, 2015

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