3 more contractors at Dow Chemical in Plaquemine test positive for COVID-19

3 more contractors at Dow Chemical in Plaquemine test positive for COVID-19
Company officials said the contractor’s work at the facility was limited to one production unit on site at the plant’s LHC unit between March 2 and March 11, posing a low risk of exposure to others outside of the contractor’s team. (Source: Dow Louisiana Operations)

PLAQUEMINE, La. (WAFB) - Three more contract workers at the Dow Chemical plant in Plaquemine have tested positive for COVID-19, a spokesperson for Dow confirms to WAFB.

Ashley Mendoza with Dow Chemical says a total of four contractors have contracted COVID-19, as of Wednesday, March 25.

Dow announced the first contractor to test positive for COVID-19, commonly referred to as the coronavirus, on March 16. The first contractor that contracted the disease is employed by Specialty Welding Services and is a resident of St. Mary Parish.

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Dow did not identify the company or companies that employ the three contractors that recently tested positive for the coronavirus. No other information has been released about the three new cases.

Mendoza says all of the individuals have been quarantined.

“Dow continues to take precautions to ensure we are appropriately responding to each of these cases for the health of our team,” Mendoza said in a statement to WAFB.

The company is screening the temperature every individual entering the gate and will deny access to anyone with a temperature above 100.0 ºF, according to Mendoza.

“We have advised employees who can work from home to do so; implemented extra sanitation and cleaning measures; and are advising social distancing practices and appropriate PPE for those who must be onsite to perform their jobs,” Mendoza said.

Mendoza said Dow is classified as an essential business and will keep operating during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The company plays a critical role in supplying the many vital products and technologies that power our healthcare, hygiene and medical industries. The Dow Team makes the products needed for antiseptics; disinfectants; personal protective equipment, like medical gowns, caps and drapes, and gloves; detergents for laundry cleaning; and even memory foams for hospital beds,” Mendoza said.

The company says it will do everything it can to ensure the health and wellbeing of its employees, customers, suppliers, and community.

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Mendoza says Dow will continue to work with government officials and medical professionals during the pandemic.

Dow Chemical announced March 17 the company would be implementing its pandemic response plan

The company said it would not “lock in” essential personnel at its Plaquemine plant because it would not have a positive effect on its employees and their families.

However, Dow officials say they are adhering to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to keep employees safe.

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In addition to personal hygiene practices, cleaning, and disinfecting, and social distancing, Dow officials are also implementing the following:

  • All personnel that can work from home are currently working remotely
  • No visitors are allowed on site
  • Increased temperature monitoring of employees entering the site
  • On site cafeteria only serving boxed lunches for pick up

SEE FULL STATEMENT BELOW

It operates the state’s largest petrochemical company and employs more than 6,000 Dow and contract employees.

The company reports it provides over $1 billion into the state’s economy each year and plays a critical role in the global economy.

The Plaquemine facility is the first chemical plant in Louisiana to report an employee testing positive for the coronavirus.

WAFB’s Kiran Chawla reached out to other chemical plants on March 17 including ExxonMobil in Baton Rouge and BASF in Geismar.

Plants in Baton Rouge area stepping up effort to prevent spread of COVID-19 after DOW employee tests positive

Neither said they would be shutting down but had pandemic preparedness plans and taking extensive precautions for the foreseeable future.

STATEMENT FROM EXXONMOBIL

"ExxonMobil has well-established processes in place to manage impacts related to infectious disease outbreaks. We will continue to ensure our plans align with the latest guidance from our local Medicine and Occupational Health team and the local Mayor’s and Governor’s Offices of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

Our focus continues to be ensuring the safety and health of our entire workforce and to do our part to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus in the community.

Information on staffing arrangements and details regarding specific unit operations is considered proprietary. We continue to meet contractual commitments. ExxonMobil has a 14-day work from home policy for individuals traveling in from locations with sustained community transmission as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

We are limiting meetings, trainings, and/or large gatherings to business critical only (on and off site)."

STATEMENT FROM BASF

"Being a global company, we have a global pandemic plan as well as a local plan.

Following all those guidelines, any non-essential personnel are encouraged to work from home. Any employees who are non-essential have already been advised and are already working from home effective (some last week, some Monday this week).

There’s increased testing which includes the temperature scan (anyone coming in, there’s a questionnaire they fill out per the CDC guidelines)

[We are] promoting social distancing, no more than 8 people in gathering, [and] personal hygiene."

STATEMENT FROM DOW CHEMICAL

"Dow will continue to be transparent through this dynamic situation. Our objective is to give people the information they need to work and operate safely on our site.

As part of our pandemic response plan, we have identified business critical work and essential personnel to carry that work out safely and reliably. We are not intending to “lock in” personnel at this time due to the nature of the virus. For this to be effective, we would need to lock in essential personnel for an extended period of time and we do not believe that would have a positive impact on our people and their families.

For those who have not worked in a manufacturing facility like Dow, we would like to add some context as to how production units operate. It can take up to two weeks to temporarily “shutdown” a production unit safely. The process of temporarily taking down a production unit also requires additional environmental health and safety procedures, as well as additional personnel. When you “start-up” a production unit it also requires added personnel and protocols to bring the unit up safely.

Dow is taking prudent steps according to guidance from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), along with our well-established infectious disease plan to keep our people safe. In addition to personal hygiene practices, cleaning and disinfecting, and social distancing, we are also implementing the following:

All personnel that can work from home are currently working remotely

No visitors are allowed on site

Increased temperature monitoring of employees entering the site

On site cafeteria only serving boxed lunches for pick up

These steps align with the company’s ongoing actions to implement comprehensive preparedness plans to mitigate possible impacts to Dow, our people and our communities. These plans address various scenarios for customers, suppliers, businesses, employees, feedstock and energy supplies, production operations and supply chain. Dow technology provides much needed support for essential needs that have been brought on by the pandemic, such as antiseptics, disinfectants, detergents, protective garments for medical professionals, and more.

The chemical sector is critical to the global infrastructure, and government officials encourage our industry to maintain safe operations. From an operations standpoint, our plants are operating and continuously evaluating our staffing plans as well as on-site health and safety actions to manage though this."

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