Carl “Dan” Fish worked at Dupont’s Belle plant for 32 years until last Saturday. That’s the day he was sprayed in the face by phosgene gas. Sunday he was dead:
On Saturday, Fish was hit with a small cloud of phosgene that leaked from a line used to transfer phosgene from storage cylinders to a crop protection chemical production unit, plant officials said.
The fatal accident was the third in a series of four incidents at the Belle plant in just two days, including Friday’s discovery of a 1,900-pound leak of toxic and flammable methyl chloride that went undetected for nearly a week. (Ken Ward, Charlston [WVa] Gazaette)
Almost immediately inspectors from OHA and investigators from the Chemical Safety Board descended on the plant, which had already declared a “safety stand down.” Exactly what happened is as yet unclear. The plant manager was quoted as saying Fish was just walking by during a safety inspection when the exposure occurred. Bad luck brought on by poor safety. Phosgene (COCl2), an extremely toxic chemical feedstock used as a gas warfare agent in WWI, is considered “immediately dangerous to life or health” (idlh) at levels of only 2 parts per million. It used in the manufacture of pesticides (the correct corporate euphemism is “crop protection chemical”) and when reacted with bisphenol A (BPS) produces polycarbonate plastic. Phosgene can cause pulmonary edema (fluid fills the lungs) and cardiac failure. DuPont buys it in 2000 pound cylinders, about one pound of which is thought to have escaped in this fatal event when a hose connecting the cylinder to a machine leaked.
Freak accident? Doubtful:
William E. Wright, a member of the Chemical Safety Board, said his agency was concerned about recent events at the Belle plant “and will proceed with an investigation to understand why these unfortunate events occurred.”
The CSB does not issue citations or fines. Instead, the agency tries to find root causes for chemical accidents and recommends ways to avoid similar events.
In voting Monday to launch its own investigation, the Chemical Safety Board said it was aware of six other releases from the Belle plant since December 2006.
Dan Fish left his house for work as usual on Saturday morning. He never came home. Just another worker death.