No chemical exposure detected on worker who died and first-responders, ExxonMobil says

KTRK logo
Saturday, February 18, 2023
ExxonMobil worker dies amid chemical exposure fears, company says
A hazmat incident was reported at Houston Methodist Baytown Hospital after a chemical odor from an ExxonMobil worker prompted decontamination.

BAYTOWN, Texas (KTRK) -- ExxonMobil is ruling out a chemical exposure playing a role in a Baytown worker's death Friday, despite a hospital limiting access as the person was admitted.

Firefighters responded to the Houston Methodist Baytown Hospital after it received the worker, who was initially admitted for suspected hazmat exposure, according to officials.

Baytown Fire Department said at about 8:30 a.m., it responded to an "unknown medical problem" at ExxonMobil Baytown Olefins Plant in the 3500 block of Decker Drive.

When they arrived, medics found a man in cardiac arrest and proceeded to provide patient care.

The man was transported to Methodist on Garth and W. Baker Road, where he was pronounced dead, the fire department said.

Firefighters said they smelled a chemical odor coming from the man and ambulance and initiated a Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT) response to Methodist to assess the area.

This led the emergency room to have limited access to ensure the public's safety, according to the hospital, who sent the following statement:

"The Houston Methodist Baytown Hospital's Emergency Department received a patient from EMS with a suspected HAZMAT exposure. In coordination with Baytown Fire Department and its HAZMAT team, the hospital diverted ambulance traffic and closely monitored access for all visitors to the emergency room to ensure their safety. The emergency room did not close. After investigating, the Baytown Fire Department and HAZMAT team has cleared the emergency room to resume normal operations. Any additional questions should be referred to the Baytown Fire Department."

Five Baytown FD personnel were reportedly exposed to the patient and were held for decontamination and health monitoring.

After medical clearance, all department personnel returned to duty, Baytown FD said.

HAZMAT crews conducted metering in the hospital and after three hours of ventilation and monitoring, levels were determined to be safe.

The ER has been cleared to reopen and is in the process of returning to normal operations.

In wake of the ordeal playing out throughout the day, ExxonMobil clarified that the worker's death did not involve exposure based on test readings. The company wrote the following statement:

"We are saddened to report that an employee passed away at our Baytown facility today. We extend our deepest sympathy to the employee's family, friends and coworkers. Initial reports from the Baytown fire department indicate that the cause of death was a cardiac arrest. Industry testing and detection methods confirmed there was no chemical exposure to the employee or medical responders. We thank the City of Baytown emergency responders and Houston Methodist Baytown Hospital medical personnel for their fast response."