A multi-billion dollar company responsible for the deaths of four employees receives a joke of a penalty
When people think of evil chemical corporations, the first name that comes to mind is Monsanto, and deservedly so. But thanks to Monsanto’s monstrosities over the years, we rarely hear about the doings of its biggest competitor, DuPont.
Last November, there was a chemical leak at a DuPont plant in La Porte, Texas, a State with a terrible record regarding regulations and inspections to begin with. The chemical in question was “methyl mercaptan,” a very deadly chemical used for insecticide synthesis, or to odorise natural gas.
Veteran operator Crystal Rae Wise opened a faulty valve on a pipe carrying the deadly chemical. More than 20,000 pounds of the foul-smelling gas spewed out. Wise was found dead on a stairwell in the insecticide unit. The gas also killed three workers who rushed in to help her: Wade Baker and brothers Robert and Gilbert Tisnado.
According to three separate lawsuits filed by the families of the deceased, Rae Wise’s daughter Jasmine alleged that DuPont failed to inspect, repair and maintain faulty and defective equipment that led to the leak. According to the suit, State records showed the plant was cited two dozen times by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, including for failure to perform routine safety inspections.
Robert Tisnado’s widow Michelle also alleged DuPont had knowledge of the work area’s deficiencies but disregarded the safety of its employees. In fact, in each suit, the families argued that the company was aware of deficiencies on the premises, but did nothing to correct them.
Meanwhile, more than six months after the toxic gas leak and an equally long investigation, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) charged DuPont with a mere $99,000 fine. The OSHA stated that those who died “would be alive today had their employer … taken steps to protect them.”
David Michaels, the Head of the OSHA said in an interview with The Texas Tribune that “It’s painful for us, and we know it’s painful for the families of these workers to see that the fine is only $99,000.” A number he then called “petty cash” for a multi-billion dollar company.
Unfortunately, the penalty is the maximum for the citations it issued. Investigators found numerous “serious” violations, those that could lead to serious injury or death. The missteps included a failure to train workers and upgrade faulty equipment.
But the law caps the fine for all these violations at $7,000 each. A dollar amount that hasn’t changed in twenty five years. To put that little number in perspective, the FCC can fine a broadcaster up to $325K for showing something deemed obscene.
The OSHA has basically stated that DuPont is 100% responsible for the deaths of four employees. While the civil lawsuits are still in progress, and could take a while, the penalty itself issued by the Federal Government is nothing short of a joke. The Punishment most definitely doesn’t fit the crime. Imagine what would happen to “real person” if he was found to have killed four people… in Texas!
The aforementioned civil lawsuits are said to be about a million dollars each, and hopefully they will be as successful as the OSHA investigation. That being said, even if DuPont gets their asses handed to them in court, it will still seem like a tiny drop of water in the ocean. No lesson will be learned. They’re just another corporation that puts profits ahead of people. If you don’t believe me, just go to Google and type in “DuPont Lawsuit.” Bah, just click the link…
Last year DuPont reported close to $35 billion in revenue.