The April 2 explosion at KMCO’s Crosby plant that tragically killed one worker and critically injured two more shouldn’t come as a surprise. As reported in the Houston Chronicle, the Harris County Attorney’s office says that the chemical company is one of the worst offenders of workplace safety and environmental laws in the region. In addition to this recent fatality and injuries, the Crosby plant has seen at least five other workers sustain serious injuries in the past 10 years. KMCO has paid over $4 million in fines or penalties to local and federal regulators for workplace and environmental violations since 2009.
In this most recent accident, a line carrying a flammable gas ignited, causing the explosion and fire. Explosions and fires there in 2010 and 2011 sent five workers to the hospital.
History of Safety Violations
According to the Chronicle article and an investigative report from Houston’s ABC 13 news, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued dozens of serious violations to KMCO since 2010 and fined it about $250,000. There were 54 violations issued in 2010 and 2011 alone for not complying with chemical process standards, emergency plan standards, and standards for the safe handling of highly hazardous chemicals, among other things.
Additionally, KMCO has been sued several times over the past 30-plus years for violating environmental regulations. Harris County lawsuits against the company date back to 1987, to a lawsuit for violations of the Texas Water Code, for which the company was ordered to pay nearly $50,000. A 2008 suit brought by Harris County for spills and fumes that sickened neighbors by giving them headaches resulted in a $100,000 penalty.
More recently, problems the company has faced include:
- An EPA investigation that resulted in a $3.5 million fine and guilty plea in 2017 for criminal violations of the Clean Air Act related to air emissions at the Crosby plant and an explosion at the company’s Port Arthur facility. An explosion at that chemical facility killed one worker and injured three others in 2011.
- Recurring violations of the Clean Water Act and a 2018 violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which regulates the handling of hazardous and non-hazardous solid waste.
High Potential for Harm
Research in 2016 of the KMCO plant and other chemical companies performed by the Houston Chronicle in conjunction with Texas A&M University resulted in the conclusion that there is a “high potential for harm” at the KMCO plant. Out of a 14-point rating scale, the plant received an 11.24. The conclusion was based on the amount of chemicals on the site and the number of people in nearby neighborhoods.
According to KMCO’s own Risk Management Plan, and as reported in the Chronicle’s article, its highest risk is a storage tank containing 246,000 pounds of a toxic and flammable chemical called ethylene oxide. The chemical is also a known human carcinogen.
If you’ve been injured on the job or in your community due to toxic exposure, the experienced personal injury attorneys at Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law are here to assist you. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.