A Fertilizer Plant Explosion Can Cause Devistating Injuries to Workers

by Terry Bryant

When a fertilizer plant explosion occurs, an uncontrolled fire is usually the reason behind it. Fires are not typically a problem at facilities that are regularly inspected for their safety. The April 17 disaster in West, Texas, is an example of what can happen when flames come in contact with combustible compounds. Investigators are still looking for the cause of the disaster, but it is now clear that the factory hadn’t been checked for safety in 28 years.

When inspectors review one of these facilities for safety, they check the condition of the processing equipment, how the ammonia nitrate is stored, and whether or not workers are following safety regulations. Ammonia nitrate is readily affected by oxidation, which is the root cause of a fertilizer plant explosion. When subjected to high temperatures, ammonia nitrate is converted into water vapor and nitrous oxide. The sudden surge of free oxygen provides a dangerous amount of fuel for the fire. At this point, a disastrous chain reaction often occurs. The fire consumes the extra oxygen and spreads quickly, which results in a massive pressure wave. In a contained area, this pressure wave results in an explosion.

Preventing fires from occurring should the primary aim of any safety measures. This can be done by regularly servicing factory equipment, checking for any electrical faults in the system and ensuring that workers are following all safety procedures. Many companies, though, neglect to address these concerns, essentially putting everyone in harm’s way. Investigators haven’t determined that the West, Texas disaster was caused by company negligence, but going 28 years without an official inspection may cause small risks to become major threats.

Anyone who has been harmed in this type of disaster should consider contacting a personal injury lawyer to determine their options for compensation.