By Steve Dudukovich, Rubber & Plastics News Staff
Houston, Texas -- Raymond McInnis and his family have sued Goodyear for gross negligence following a June 11 explosion at the company's Houston styrene-butadiene rubber plant that killed his wife Gloria.
McInnis, in an interview posted on local TV station KTRK's Web site, said the issue that concerns him is the way Goodyear accounted for the workers following the explosion. Gloria McInnis' body wasn't found for seven hours after the accident.
Raymond McInnis said he tried several times to reach the plant after the 7:30 a.m. explosion to see if his wife was all right. He finally spoke with a guard at the gate house, who told him she was OK, and was further reassured when he heard Plant Manager Mike Lockwood say on a morning news broadcast the plant had been given the all clear.
At 1:45 p.m., McInnis said he received a call from Goodyear wanting to know if his wife was home. She was not, and McInnis went to the plant.
Gloria McInnis' body was found at 2 p.m.
Goodyear officials apologized to McInnis, he said, but could not offer him any facts at the time.
â€œMy wife may not have been dead at the time of the incident, but to wait seven hours, that's a shame,â€ McInnis said. â€œThat's a crime. Somebody didn't follow the procedure right.â€
Gloria McInnis was accounted for by an emergency response team member that had talked to her before the incident, a Goodyear spokesman said, but the employee became confused following the explosion. â€œThis particular coordinator had mistaken the conversation that had happened immediately before the explosion as happening after the explosion and marked her as accounted for,â€ he said.
As a member of the emergency response team, Gloria McInnis would have reported to this person, the spokesman said. If it was known Gloria was missing, he said, it is speculative that rescue workers would have been able to look for her sooner.
The lawsuit did not come as a surprise to Goodyear as the McInnis family took some legal action to preserve the site and do an investigation, he said. No monetary damages were specified in the lawsuit.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration also is conducting an investigation of the plant. The federal agency has up to six months to complete its work, according to an OSHA spokeswoman. She could not comment any further.
According to OSHA's Web site, investigators found five violations at the plant and fined the company $17,500 in 2005. Three violations were later deleted, and the fine was reduced to $4,200.
The two violations remaining on record deal with lockout/tagout. The deleted violations also dealt with this problem.
The Web site also shows that OSHA cited the plant last year and proposed fines for four violations through an investigation that began in 2006.
Since then, one of the violations has been deleted. Of the three left, one violation deals with emergency action plans and the other two with processing safety management of highly hazardous chemicals. The initial fine was close to $6,000 but ended up being reduced to nearly $4,700.
Six other workers were injured in the June 11 explosion. One was a Goodyear employee, and the rest were contractors for other companies, according to the company spokesman. All have been released from the hospital.
The cause of the explosion is still unknown. It occurred in a precooler device, according to the spokesman.
Goodyear brought in grief counselors to help workers cope with Gloria McInnis' death. The firm offered to pay for funeral expenses, the spokesman said.
Gloria McInnis was a 32-year employee of the plant, one of many staff members who had worked there for an extended amount of time.
â€œIt's devastating to lose an associate at all, but is particularly devastating for those individuals that had worked with this person side by side for so many years,â€ the spokesman said.
From Rubber & Plastics News (A Crain publication)