A Fertilizer Plant Explosion Survivor Should Consult A Lawyer
A fertilizer plant explosion, like many disasters at processing facilities, is usually caused by fire or shock. On April 17, 14 people were killed in West, Texas when a local factory containing ammonia nitrate was compromised by fire. Experts expect more fatalities, because dozens of people are still missing in the area. Investigators responding to the accident aren’t sure what caused the fire, but they now realize the facility hadn’t received a full safety inspection in nearly three decades. As a result, regulations regarding workplace safety, proper electrical insulation and ammonia nitrate storage may have been neglected.
While investigators aren’t sure that the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion is the result of negligence, many of these disasters can be attributed to violated safety regulations. These processing centers store large amounts of ammonia nitrate, which is extremely combustible. This is due to its ability to readily oxidize in the presence of heat. When ammonia nitrate is subjected to high temperatures, it readily breaks down into two substances – water vapor and nitrous oxide. The resulting chemical reaction supplies the surrounding air with much more free oxygen, which fires require for fuel and additional combustion. In effect, even the smallest uncontrolled fire in one of these facilities can result in a dangerous chain reaction. The fire heats up the ammonia nitrate, which releases additional fuel as it breaks down, which causes the fire to spread much faster.
When the ammonia nitrate is stored in a contained area, a fertilizer plant explosion is imminent in the presence of flames. The rapid combustion of oxygen results in a massive rise in pressure, caused by the expansion of the heated air. Pressure waves cause an initial deflagration that is often capable of causing secondary, more powerful, explosions.
Most safety regulations in the industry, therefore, are designed to prevent any uncontrolled fires from starting. Regular inspections of the facility will be needed to reduce the risk of a fertilizer plant explosion. During these inspections, safety experts will ensure that machinery and their electronics are up to code. Often, fires are started because of electrical faults. These flaws can throw sparks or ignite combustible materials. Out-of-date equipment, poor maintenance, or manufacturing flaws can all be responsible for electrical faults in the system. Factory owners must keep this equipment current and constantly monitored to verify the safety of the employees. Many owners unfortunately neglect to do this.
Uncontrolled fires may also start if workers are not abiding by safety measures put in place. Smoking while on the premises, failing to shutdown machinery or leaving materials in unsafe areas can all be the cause of a fertilizer plant explosion. The company in control of the facility must keep its workers trained and mindful of safety procedures, but many neglect to do this.
Anyone who is harmed in one of these accidents should think about speaking with a personal injury lawyer to discuss their options. A company that neglects to inspect its facilities is putting its workers at risk. Even when there are safety measures in place, it is the company’s responsibility to ensure they are being followed. A personal injury lawyer can help a victim determine whether or not they have grounds for compensation.