Fluoropolymer maker Daikin America Inc. faces $232,000 in fines after two employees died from exposure to dangerous toxins during maintenance work at its Decatur, Ala., factory.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration said in a Jan. 5 news release that two employees were killed and one sickened after a July 2 incident in which the employees were doing maintenance work.
"The employer failed to provide appropriate protective equipment and implement safe work practices during maintenance activities on chemical processing equipment," OSHA said.
The workers suffered respiratory failure and were treated at local hospitals after being exposed to fluorocarbons and other hazardous chemicals, OSHA said. One employee died Aug. 10 and a second died Sept. 28.
Daikin America, in a statement, said it mourned the loss of the two employees, Wesley Rusk and Will Delashaw, and said OSHA's conclusions have been posted at the company and are being reviewed.
But Daikin, which said employee safety is its top priority, also said it disagreed with OSHA.
"Because this matter may later involve litigation, we are necessarily limited in our comments at this time," Daikin said.
"However, what we can say at this time is that we strongly disagree with OSHA's conclusions because we believe they are mistaken," the company added. "We recognize OSHA's authority and will continue to work with OSHA toward resolution."
The agency said the exposure happened while the employees were doing maintenance work involving a line break, a nitrogen purge and atmospheric venting of equipment. OSHA said it highlighted the importance of safety protocols around chemical processing equipment.
The company, which is part of Japanese conglomerate Daikin Industries Ltd., was cited for nine serious and one willful violations of federal safety laws.
The OSHA news release said the company failed to institute critical safe work practices, provide workers with appropriate respiratory equipment and didn't properly communicate hazards to workers.
A local television news report from August interviewed Rusk's widow Sharona and detailed her husband's struggle to recover. The story said doctors had been seeking a lung transplant for Rusk, until his condition worsened.