The former president of Port Arthur Chemical and Environmental Services, LLC (PACES) has been sentenced for occupational safety crimes which resulted in employee deaths.

Matthew Lawrence Bowman, 41, of Houston, pleaded guilty on May 9, 2013, to violating the Occupational Safety and Health Act and making a false statement.  He was sentenced to a year in federal prison Monday by U.S. District Judge Marcia Crone. Bowman was also ordered to pay fines in the amount of $5,000.

Bowman admitted to not properly protecting PACES employees from exposure to hydrogen sulfide, a poisonous gas resulting in the death of truck driver Joey Sutter on Dec. 18, 2008. In addition, Bowman admitted to telling employees to falsify transportation documents to conceal that the wastewater was coming from PACES after a disposal facility put a moratorium on all shipments from PACES after it received loads containing hydrogen sulfide.

According to information presented in court, Bowman was president and owner of PACES, located in Port Arthur, Texas, and CES Environmental Services (CES) located in Houston. PACES was in operation from November 2008 to November 2010, and was in the business of producing and selling caustic materials to paper mills. The production of caustic materials involved hydrogen sulfide, a poisonous gas. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, hydrogen sulfide is an acute toxic substance that is the leading cause of sudden death in the workplace. Employers are required by OSHA to implement engineering and safety controls to prevent employees from exposure above harmful limits of hydrogen sulfide.

Bowman was responsible for approving and directing PACES production operations, the disposal of hydrogen sulfide wastewater, and ensuring implementation of employee safety precautions. In some cases, Bowman personally handled the investigation of work-related employee injuries, directed the transportation of PACES wastewater, and determined what safety equipment could be purchased or maintained. In the cases at issue, hazardous materials were transported illegally with false documents and without the required placards. Most importantly, the workers were not properly protected from exposure to hazardous gases. The exposure resulted in the deaths of two employees, Joey Sutter and Charles Sittig, who were truck drivers, at the PACES facility on Dec. 18, 2008 and Apr. 14, 2009.

Placarding is critical to ensure the safety of first responders in the event of an accident or other highway incident.

Bowman and PACES were indicted by a federal grand jury on July 18, 2012.

Many business owners don’t understand that they face potential civil and even criminal liability for failing to manage OSHA compliance if this negligence results in a fatality.

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