Airgas Subsidiary Faces $7 Million Fine For Hazardous Practices

Last Thursday, Airgas Doral plead guilty to 14 federal criminal charges that it violated hazardous materials transportation laws after an investigation linked it to the deaths of three workers in May 2008.

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The South Florida Business Journal and Ft. Lauderdale-based Sun Sentinel report that Airgas Doral, a subsidiary of Airgas, has plead guity to violating the Hazardous Materials Transporation Act after an investigation linked the company to the deaths of three workers in May 2008.

The reports say Airgas Doral, a Deleware-based copmany and subsidiary of Airgas Inc., operated a Miami-area fill plant that was investigated after an argon gas leak killed three men aboard Port Everglades cargo ship. Last Thursday, the company plead guilty to 14 federal criminal charges that it "willfully and recklessly vilolated" hazardous materials transportation laws. Airgas Doral reportedly agreed to recommend fines of $500,000 per conviction under the terms of a plea agreement, totalling $7 million in potential fines. Sentencing will occur on May 26.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said Airgas Doral allowed the transporation of a container of argon gas that should not have been shipped. The container leaked, resulting in the deaths of three stevedores.

The reports cite a court document that said Airgas was charged by information in April with willfully and recklessly failing to conduct a complete external inspection of the bulk portable tanks on separate instances in 2008.

Along with the fines, authorities said Airgas Doral will also be placed on two years probation.

Reports say the gas container was also handled by other companies, but prosecutors said the Miami fill plant hazmat employees and managers failed to perform required physical inspections and comply with other safeguards.