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OSHA proposes over $200K in fines following Daikin America chemical exposures

Alabama manufacturer faces $232K in penalties for 10 violations
Published: Jan. 5, 2022 at 1:31 PM CST
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DECATUR, Ala. (WAFF) - The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is proposing fines totaling more than $230,000 after citing Daikin America for nine ‘serious’ violations.

In a January 5 press release, OSHA states:

Exposure to dangerous toxins at an Alabama chemical manufacturing plant – Daikin America Inc. – lead to the deaths of two workers and sickened another worker after the employer failed to provide appropriate protective equipment and implement safe work practices during maintenance activities on chemical processing equipment.

A U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation found that on July 2, 2021, Daikin America 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 a local hospital for respiratory failure treatment before he returned home. The other two employees were treated for respiratory failure at local hospitals but later died one on Aug. 10, 2021, and the other on Sept. 28, 2021.

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 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.

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

“Two families will enter 2022 without their loved ones and one family will have the long-lasting memory of a frightening and serious illness,” said OSHA Area Director Ramona Morris in Birmingham, Alabama. “This tragic event should serve as a lesson for all employers to ensure effective safety protocols are established before initiating maintenance activities involving chemical processing equipment and systems.”

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. Learn more about OSHA.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s workers by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.

Daikin General Affairs and Training Manager Forrest Keith, released the following statement:

At DAI, we continue to mourn the loss of two of our finest members, Wesley Rusk and Will Delashaw.  Our heartfelt sympathy continues to go out to their families and friends, both at home and here at the plant.

Daikin has received the report from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and its conclusions have been posted and are being reviewed.

Because this matter may later involve litigation, we are necessarily limited in our comments at this time.

However, 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.

Our number one priority at Daikin is, and always has been, the safety and well-being of our employees.

We will continue to strive to provide a safe work environment for our team members.

Read past stories from WAFF on Daikin America:

August 11, 2021 - Daikin employee dies from chemical exposure

August 12, 2021 - Records reveal additional chemical exposure cases for Daikin-America after death of employee

August 13, 2021 - ‘The doctors say I have four years if I don’t get a lung transplant’: Woman suing Daikin over chemical exposure injuries speaks out

August 26, 2021 - Wife of Daikin chemical exposure victim speaks out

September 14, 2021 - Woman of alleged Daikin chemical exposure passes away

September 16, 2021 - Advocacy organization shares toxic report of Daikin America’s Decatur plant

September 17, 2021 - Another lawsuit filed against Daikin America’s Decatur plant

September 28, 2021 - Another Daikin America employee dies after being exposed to chemicals

September 29, 2021 - Attorney representing latest Daikin America victim wants deaths and injuries to stop

October 11, 2021 - Families of chemical exposure victims still with unanswered questions two years later

October 14, 2021 - Family speaks out after apparent chemical exposure victim dies of COVID-19

October 19, 2021 - 3M signs nearly $100 million settlement with Decatur, Morgan County and Decatur Utilities

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