DECATUR, Ala. – OSHA has announced it is proposing fines of $232,000 for Daikin America in Decatur.

The agency says the company exposed three workers to toxic and hazardous chemicals on July 2, 2021, and two of the workers later died.

OSHA cited Daikin for nine serious violations and one willful violation.

Will Delashaw died in September following the July exposure. Wesley Rusk, who was also exposed that day, died in August.

OSHA said Daikin America failed to monitor the air to assess chemical exposures, give their employees written procedures on the required level of respiratory protection, and tell their workers about the hazards associated with the chemicals.

The investigation showed that Daikin America failed to institute critical safe work practices and ensure workers used appropriate respiratory protection and personal protective equipment.

OSHA confirmed the chemical exposure happened while the workers were conducting maintenance activities requiring a processing line break, a nitrogen purge, and atmospheric venting of equipment, resulting in the release of toxic fluorocarbons and other hazardous chemicals. 

“Two families will enter 2022 without their loved ones and one family will have the long-lasting memory of a frightening and serious illness,” said OSHA Area Director Ramona Morris in a statement. “This tragic event should serve as a lesson for all employers to ensure effective safety protocols are established before initiating maintenance activities involving chemical processing equipment and systems.”

News 19 reached out to Daikin America and received the following statement:

At DAI, we continue to mourn the loss of two of our finest members, Wesley Rusk and Will Delashaw.  Our heartfelt sympathy continues to go out to their families and friends, both at home and here at the plant.

Daikin has received the report from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and its conclusions have been posted and are being reviewed.

Because this matter may later involve litigation, we are necessarily limited in our comments at this time.

However, what we can say at this time is that we strongly disagree with OSHA’s conclusions because we believe they are mistaken.  We recognize OSHA’s authority and will continue to work with OSHA toward resolution.

Our number one priority at Daikin is, and always has been, the safety and well-being of our employees.

We will continue to strive to provide a safe work environment for our team members.

Forrest Keith, Daikin Spokesperson