Bayer to Pay $143K Fine Over 2008 West Virginia Plant Explosion

April 2, 2010

Bayer CropScience has agreed to pay a $143,000 fine to resolve safety citations stemming from a fatal explosion at its Institute, West Virginia plant in 2008.

Bayer said that the citations are principally related to the plant’s methomyl unit where the explosion occurred on Aug. 28, 2008. One worker was killed immediately. Another suffered severe burns and died several weeks later.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Administration cited Bayer in February 2009 for 15 violations.

Bayer said the citations in the settlement agreement involved operating and maintenance procedures, training and the use of fire-resistant clothing for some operations at the sprawling plant located about 12 miles west of Charleston.

A congressional committee report said the explosion came close to compromising a tank holding methyl isocyanate, or MIC. An MIC leak from a former Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, in 1984 killed thousands of people.

“We also have worked with OSHA to resolve the citations and have implemented changes that already address several of the process safety issues raised by the agency,” Steve Hedrick, head of the Institute operation, said in a company statement.

Union Carbide once operated the West Virginia plant, now owned by Bayer CropScience. MIC is used in the manufacture of insecticides at four different units at the sprawling 465-acre plant. One unit, the methomyl unit, was damaged in the explosion.

Last year Bayer CropScience announced it was spending $25 million on safety upgrades at the Institute plant. As part of that, the company said it would cut MIC storage by 80 percent and build an underground storage tank to hold the chemical.

The settlement agreement must be approved by the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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