By James L. Curtis, Meagan Newman, and Anne D. Harris
A federal judge sentenced the former president of a Port Arthur, Texas chemical company to one year in prison and ordered him to pay fines in the amount of $5,000 for violations of the OSH Act and making a false statement.
Matthew Lawrence Bowman, the former president and owner of Port Arthur Chemical and Environmental Services LLC (PACES) pleaded guilty on May 9, 2013, admitting he did not properly protect employees from hydrogen sulfide exposure and that he directed employees to falsify transportation documents to conceal that wastewater was coming PACES after a moratorium was placed on PACES’ shipments due to a finding of hydrogen sulfide in PACES’ loads.
Bowman was responsible for and sometimes personally managed PACES’ production operations, disposal of wastewater, and employee safety procedures. Due to Bowman’s failure to ensure proper safety precautions related to hydrogen sulfide, two PACES employees were exposed to improper levels of hydrogen sulfide and ultimately died from the exposure.
After Bowman’s sentencing, Eric Harbin, OSHA’s Deputy Regional Administrator stated that “OSHA standards are in place to protect workers and employers will be held accountable when they fail to follow these standards.” The government’s willingness to hold an individual criminally liable for safety violations provides a strong reminder that employers should review their safety procedures and protocols to make sure they are in line with OSHA’s standards.