A major manufacturer of pesticides that has operations in several states will pay a total of $5.6 million following a fatal workplace accident in West Virginia that left two people dead. The settlement will dispose of allegations that the manufacturer's acts and omissions at the West Virginia plant constituted violations of federal regulations aimed to prevent explosions and other serious chemical accidents.
In addition to paying a fine, the firm also had to promise to spend a substantial amount to improve its safety measures in all of its plants, both in West Virginia and in other parts of the country. The company will also have to improve its disaster response plan and take steps to protect a nearby river from contamination.
The company will have three years to implement the measures it has promised to take. The settlement can be enforced in court. It must remain available for public review and comment for 30 days before a federal judge in West Virginia can approve the settlement and dispose of the case.
Prior to settlement, the federal government had listed a litany of issues that it had found with respect to the manufacturer's handling of the 2008 accident. For one, employees had not been trained to handle new technology that had been introduced to the plant. Perhaps because of the poor training, the manufacturer did not follow its own safety procedures, and a technical error led to a fatal chemical explosion. Moreover, the manufacturer also hindered the rescue and response effort.
While this settlement is a positive step toward ensuring that this sort of incident won't happen again, none of the proceeds from this settlement are going directly to victims. The families of those who are killed in this sort of accident would possibly have to resort to a wrongful death lawsuit in order to get compensation.
Source: EHS Today, "Bayer Cropscience Reaches $5.6 Million Settlement with EPA and DOJ over West Virginia Violations," Sandy Smith, Oct. 5, 2015