HOUSTON (CN) – A Valero refinery worker died because a hazmat suit raised his body temperature to 107.5 degrees and managers ignored co-workers’ requests for help, his wife and mother claim in court.
Jason Wellons was “in excellent physical condition” in early March when he started working for J.V. Industrial Companies at Valero’s St. Charles, La. refinery, his family says in the June 23 lawsuit in Harris County Court.
He became fatigued on the job two weeks later when bosses made him work through breaks in a respirator and DuPont-made hazmat suit, with his gloves and boots taped, his family says.
They sued Valero Energy Corp., E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company and J.V. Industrial Companies Ltd. for punitive damages.
Wellons, 45, and his co-workers should have been given 15 minute breaks for every 30 minutes of work because they were wearing protective gear, his widow and mother say.
“At some point, Jason Wellons became unable to climb down from the scaffolding on which he was working,” the complaint states.
As Wellons’ temperature spiked, his co-workers contacted management and said “a worker was down,” yet “Wellons was ignored for an exorbitant and unreasonable period of time,” according to the complaint.
Wellons’ family says the correct protocol was to get him out of the suit, put him in ice water and give him oxygen, none of which happened. Someone did call an ambulance.
“Still in his Tychem suit with his safety harness in place, Jason Wellons arrived by ambulance (not life flight!) at the hospital emergency room.
“Though the temperature at the plant had been balmy and comfortable, Jason Wellons’ body temperature soared to 107 degrees Fahrenheit as he remained sealed in the PPE [personal protective equipment].
“According to the autopsy report, his rectal temperature was 107.5.” (Parentheses in complaint.)
His widow and mom seek punitive damages for negligence and gross negligence. They are represented by Clay Dugas of Beaumont.
Defendants include Total Safety US Inc., responsible for safety training and monitoring at the refinery; and Brock Services LLC, which installed the scaffolding on which Wellons was working when he overheated. His family calls the scaffolding defective because it did not allow access to his work area.
Spokesmen for Valero and DuPont declined to comment. A J.V. Industrial employee said she would call back after talking to a higher-up, but did not.
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