Millions of barrels of oil per day are processed in the United States utilizing toxic chemicals, high temperatures, and tremendous pressure. This can make for dangerous conditions. When neither the proper safety precautions are being taken nor proper safety procedures followed, the ensuing results can be devastating. A refinery explosion is extremely dangerous for those working inside the facility, outside of the facility, and even those living and working in neighboring homes and businesses. Texas refinery explosions can happen in industrial settings, storage facilities, chemical and processing plants, and other areas related to oil and gas production and refining.
Causes of Refinery Explosions
Unfortunately, too often refinery explosions can be traced to the reluctance of management to invest in the replacement, maintenance, or repair of defective equipment. This was the cause of the 2005 Texas City BP refinery explosion wherein faulty, corroded pipes failed and released flammable vapors into the air.
Employers and refinery owners are required by law to regularly inspect and maintain tanks, containers, and other equipment. They are also required to provide safe and up to code containers for flammable liquids and to inspect them for leaks, in addition to having many other safety protocols in place. Some of the most common causes of refinery explosions include:
Inadequate training of employees regarding safety as well as their job duties sadly causes accidents in refineries every year. Employers have a duty to workers to ensure they are properly and adequately equipped to safely carry out their work responsibilities. This means employers and other parties that own and/or operate these facilities should provide all workers with safety training and specific job training in addition to posting safety signage throughout facilities in languages all employees understand. Providing proper training also applies to any contractors on-site, as it is crucial that all workers within a facility understand safety and job requirements.
Failing to provide safety equipment is another failure by employers that causes direct harm to employees. Safety equipment can include personal protective equipment for employees, such as eye protection, gloves, hardhats, and safeguarding equipment, materials, and the facility itself. Employers are required to install adequate fire suppression systems throughout a facility, along with safety equipment that alerts in the event of a gas or chemical leaks to give fair warning if an issue arises. Due to the sensitive nature of the chemicals and materials involved in refinery work, it’s crucial they are properly stored to reduce exposure that could result in a fire or cause other serious injuries.
Misuse of chemicals or the use of dirty or impure chemicals and materials can easily lead to a deadly combustion, resulting in a refinery fire or explosion. Without proper job training, workers can misuse natural gas, benzene, or other highly flammable liquids. Employees rely on quality education and storage to ensure all chemicals and gases are kept secure. If this does not happen, the items are at risk of violently interacting with one another and seriously injuring or even killing the employees who handle them and/or are exposed to them.
Failing to conduct routine maintenance and inspection of facilities puts employees in immediate danger. Regardless of the use of personal protective equipment, employees have little to protect themselves with in the event of a malfunctioning piece of equipment or machinery. Employers are reluctant to conduct the much needed and relied upon inspection of all equipment, machinery, and materials used by employees due to the cost of having to shut down facilities. While this is a cost to employers, the price paid by work accident victims as a result of their negligence far outweighs the potential lost workdays.
Refinery Explosion Liability
When a refinery explosion by employer or a third party negligence, those parties can be held liable for any resulting injuries or deaths that occur. Due to the nature of work in a refinery, refinery accidents have the ability to take innocent lives and inflict catastrophic, life-altering injuries to employees. These injuries often require extensive medical care and ongoing treatment that can be costly and cause an employee to miss work. Refinery accident injuries include but are not limited to:
- Severe burns and lacerations
- Chemical burns
- Electrical burns
- Broken limbs and fractures
- Exposure to toxic chemicals
- Internal damage
- Permanent debilitation
- Wrongful death
Houston Refinery Accident Attorneys
Life in Houston is closely tied to the bustling oil and gas industry. Refineries are responsible for keeping the industry dominant. Refinery employee safety should be treated equally to corporate profits, but sadly many companies – especially during the current economic downturn – are making negligent choices that put refinery workers at risk. If you or someone you know has been injured or killed in a Houston refinery accident, you have a limited time to act. It’s important that victims and their loved ones protect themselves and contact the Texas refinery explosion attorneys at Dax F. Garza, P.C. today to discuss their case at no cost.