EPA Sues Formosa Plastics for Numerous Worker Safety Violations

Yesterday, the United States of America, on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency, filed a complaint in the Southern District of Texas against Formosa Plastics Corporation, Texas, for numerous alleged violations of worker safety practices, failure to maintain equipment and for leaking hazardous gases into the environment.

On September 13, 2013, Formosa’s High Density Polyethylene Unit No. 2 (HDPE 2) allegedly caught fire and exploded after an electric chainsaw ignited the “explosive environment created from dust combined with flammable vapor,” causing second and third degree burns to five workers and $310,000 in property damage. On February 19th, 2014, an Olefins 1 production unit allegedly released liquid propylene and gave a supervisor a cold burn. The complaint alleges several other issues that arose under Formosa’s supervision including gas leaks, several chlorine leaks and chlorine inhalation in several facilities.

Formosa is being sued for twenty violations: general lack of work safety protocols, failure to maintain machinery, failure to design a safe facility, failure to obtain several permits, failure to perform regular inspections, and inadequate emergency planning. According to the complaint, Formosa failed to keep up to date with numerous codes, security and safety standards, and endangered the wellbeing of their workers as a result, failing to include “proper first-aid and emergency medical treatment necessary to treat accidental human exposures”and “failing to address” issues with machinery that was in operation.

The United States is seeking civil penalties in “an amount of up to $37,500 per day for each such violation occurring prior to November 2, 2015, and up to $101,439 per day for each violation occurring after November 2, 2015,” injunctive relief and other relief.