Commonly referred to as the energy capital of the world, the greater Houston area has seen more than its share of chemical explosion incidents. To continuously fuel a thriving petrochemical industry, thousands of tons of combustible materials are stored in tanks along the ship channel, near refineries and plants. Exactly what types of agents and where exactly they are located is unclear, as recent state legislation has made this information inaccessible to the public.
The Phillips Petroleum complex in Pasadena alone made headlines three times with a major chemical explosion in 1989, 1999, and 2000. Altogether, a total of 26 people lost their lives, and nearly 400 were injured in these events alone. Old news reports indicate that in the year 2000 incident, a tank of butadiene had burst as a result of a runaway chemical reaction. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) later determined that failure to properly train workers was a key factor in the explosion. The organization found 50 alleged violations of safety standards at the facility and proposed a fine of $2.5 million in penalties against Phillips Petroleum.
Victims of a chemical explosion often suffer life-threatening or fatal injuries, including burns, amputation of limbs, head trauma from flying objects, contusions, lacerations, hearing loss, lung damage from exposure to toxins and more. In many cases, survivors are also stricken by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a psychiatric condition that often requires extensive therapy and medication. The severity of injuries leaves victims and their families devastated because they are often long-lasting or permanent and particularly life-altering.
Tragically, the majority of these accidents are attributed to unsafe working conditions, improper maintenance of equipment, and insufficient adherence to safety regulations. In other words, they could be avoided with regular equipment inspections, proper facility maintenance, and strict compliance with workplace safety protocols and procedures.
The fact that many of these blasts are preventable comes as little consolation to chemical explosion victims and their families, as they mourn loved ones or struggle to overcome physical or mental impairment and regain a semblance of normal life. The prospect of long-term illness is emotionally daunting, and the pressure of mounting medical bills is overwhelming.
If the incident occurred as a result of negligent acts or omissions, a personal injury lawyer may be able help victims of a chemical explosion and their families obtain financial compensation from the party (or parties) responsible for the blast. This may be the plant owner, equipment manufacturers, contractors or subcontractors, suppliers and supervisors, or other culpable parties. The attorney will work to protect the victim’s rights and attempt to recover damages for pain and suffering, medical expenses, loss of quality of life, and more.