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Daikin faces $200k fines after fatal chemical leaks

USA: Daikin America faces fines of $232,103 following the deaths of two workers and the hospitalisation of another following exposure to toxic chemicals at the company’s plant in Decatur, Alabama.

Following an investigation by the US Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigation into an incident on July 2, 2021, Daikin America was found to have exposed three chemical operators to toxic fluorocarbon and other hazardous chemicals that resulted in the workers suffering respiratory failure.

One worker spent nearly a week in hospital for respiratory failure treatment before being discharged. The other two employees were treated for respiratory failure but later died one on August 10 and the other on September 28.

The exposure occurred while the workers were conducting maintenance activities requiring a processing line break, a nitrogen purge, and atmospheric venting of equipment, resulting in the release of toxic fluorocarbons and other hazardous chemicals. 

The Decatur plant produces chemical intermediates for the fluorine chemical industry, including fluoropolymers, and fluoroelastomers for many critical applications.

The OSHA says that the investigation revealed that Daikin America failed to institute critical safe work practices required under OSHA’s process safety management standard and ensure workers used appropriate respiratory protection and personal protective equipment. “The employer also failed to perform air monitoring to assess chemical exposures, provide written procedures that clearly identify the required level of respiratory protection, and communicate to workers the hazards associated with the chemicals,” the OSHA said.

OSHA cited Daikin America for nine serious and one wilful violation. The company faces $232,103 in proposed penalties.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. 

In a press statement, Daikin said it was reviewing the report’s conclusions so was limited in the comments it could make at this time. However, it added: “What we can say at this time is that we strongly disagree with OSHA’s conclusions because we believe they are mistaken. We recognize OSHA’s authority and will continue to work with OSHA toward resolution.

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