WASHINGTON — Union Carbide Corp. agreed today to pay a record $408,500 fine to settle hundreds of contested health and safety violations, including allegations that it exposed unprotected workers to deadly gases at two chemical plants in West Virginia.
The Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration said the agreement settles 576 alleged violations filed against the chemical giant last year after inspections of its Institute and South Charleston, W.Va., plants.
In settling, Carbide accepted responsibility but did not admit guilt.
OSHA originally had sought $1,377,300 in fines for 221 violations, including 127 described as "willful" or deliberate disregard of the law, at the Institute plant and $90,000 for 335 "willful" violations at South Charleston.
'Sniffing' for Leaks
One of the "willful" violations involved what inspectors said was a requirement by officials at the Institute plant that workers "sniff" for the presence of phosgene gas when alarms indicated a leak.
"They used to use canaries for that," Labor Secretary William E. Brock said when the first set of citations was issued in April, 1986.