September 22, 2011 | Mark Paradies

Press Release from the US Chemical Safety Board: CSB Votes to Approve Final Report on Three Accidents at DuPont Belle, West Virginia Plant

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CSB Votes to Approve Final Report on Three Accidents at DuPont Belle, West Virginia Plant following Public Comment Period

Safety Video Released Online at www.CSB.gov

Investigation Found Lack of Safe Equipment Design, Ineffective Mechanical Integrity Programs, and Failure to Investigate Near Misses

Recommendations Call for OSHA, Industry Groups to Tighten Safeguards for Highly Toxic Gas Handling

 
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Washington, DC, September 22, 2011— The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) today released its final report on a series of three accidents that occurred over a 33-hour period on January 22 and 23, 2010, at the DuPont Corporation’s Belle, West Virginia, chemical manufacturing plant – including a fatal release of deadly phosgene gas, which was used as a chemical weapon in World War One. 

The Board voted 4-1 to approve the report following an extensive public comment period initiated with the release of a draft report on July 7, 2011, in Charleston, West Virginia. In the final report, the Board took into consideration all of the comments filed by industry stakeholders, members of the public and other interested parties, some of which resulted in factual corrections or language changes to the draft report.

CSB Chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso said, “We thank those individuals, companies and agencies who helpfully commented on our report. Our final report shows in detail how a series of preventable safety shortcomings — including failure to maintain the mechanical integrity of a critical phosgene hose — led to the accidents. That this happened at a company with DuPont’s reputation for safety should indicate the need for every chemical plant to redouble their efforts to analyze potential hazards and take steps to prevent tragedy.”

The CSB also released a safety video today entitled “Fatal Exposure: Tragedy at DuPont,” based on the investigation, which features an animation depicting the sequence of events leading to the death of a worker when a phosgene hose suddenly burst. The video also explains the causes of two other toxic chemical releases detailed in the report and features comments by Board Member John Bresland, CSB Investigation Team Lead Johnnie Banks and Investigator Lucy Tyler.

The report makes numerous safety recommendations. Among them, DuPont was urged to enclose all of its phosgene production and storage areas so that any releases of phosgene will be contained. (The Belle facility subsequently announced it was ceasing phosgene usage in 2011, and had no plans to resume use.)

For the rest of the press release, see:

http://www.csb.gov/newsroom/detail.aspx?nid=383

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