The state of Texas has benefitted hugely from the oil and gas industry, but unfortunately this has come at a grave price for many workers. According to the U.S. Energy information Administration, Texas is the nation’s largest producer of crude oil and natural gas. Texas alone produced 41% of the nation’s crude oil supply and 25% of the nation’s natural gas supply in 2018, the most recent year of available data. Houston plays a major supporting role in these figures, and with that comes a great risk for the workers who power Texas’ oil and gas sector. Refineries and plants for crude oil and other substances dot the Texas landscape and require thousands of workers for their operation. These workers are subjected to an increased risk of injuries when refinery and plant owners don’t adhere to state and federal safety regulations, and the consequences can prove deadly. Texas has a history of catastrophic refinery and plant explosions, but this has not prompted an increase in safety measures.
In fact, Firm Founder Chance McMillan put himself through college working nights at the chemical plants along Highway 225 in Pasadena and Deer Park, Texas. Going to school, working a day job at a law firm, and working nights at the plants was challenging but rewarding. His strong work ethic and experience working in the plants help him understand his clients in a way most lawyers cannot. Chance’s chemical plant work experience has come full circle with his representation of victims of multiple recent chemical plant explosion cases around the Houston area, including the Intercontinental Terminals Company explosion in his hometown of Deer Park (wherein he represents over 1,000 plaintiffs), as well as the KMO Crosby fire.
A Sensitive System
In order for Texas’ 30 refineries to produce 5.8 million barrels of crude oil daily, plants depend on the careful use and transportation of highly flammable chemicals, heavy machinery, and equipment. In order for this process to be successful, the system must adhere to and operate under a set of codes and guidelines outlined under federal law. Unfortunately, Houstonians have seen enough workplace tragedies to know that this is not the standard operating procedure at many refineries and plants.
The process of refining oil and gas is sensitive largely due to the materials and chemicals being used. Under normal and safe operating procedures, the chemicals undergo a “cleaning” process that extracts any impurities that could disrupt the refinement process. Dirty or impure chemicals are more likely to react with other chemicals and materials that could cause an explosion.
Just as the chemicals being used throughout the refining process must undergo their own inspection, all machines, equipment, and pipelines also require routine inspection and maintenance. When companies fail to carry out proper inspection and maintenance, they are putting the workers who tend to that equipment at immediate risk. Additionally, routine inspection ensures that all equipment is functioning properly and is equipped to safely handle and transport the chemicals being used.
Companies have a responsibility to their employees to provide adequate training not only pertaining to an employee’s individual job but also on overall workplace safety. When employees are not properly trained, they are more likely to make mistakes. Even the smallest mistake can turn deadly in a confined and sensitive space like a refinery.
Improperly Stored Materials
Chemicals and other agents used during refining must be properly stored so they do not come into contact with other substances that could lead to a reaction. Oftentimes, the chemicals and agents used are highly sensitive to temperatures and the surrounding environment; therefore, these chemicals need to be properly stored to ensure the safety of all who handle them.
It’s not hard to imagine how a refinery or plant explosion can cause serious injuries. Refineries and manufacturing plants are home to extremely dangerous chemicals under a tremendous amount of pressure, which can be a recipe for disaster. When an explosion occurs, workers can suffer a number of devastating injuries, including:
- Shockwave Injuries – The blast from an explosion can cause shockwave injuries or blast injuries. These injuries can affect hollow organs, such as the lungs and gastrointestinal tract, and might not be immediately apparent.
- Burns – Because of the high heat generated by an explosion, nearby workers can suffer thermal, electrical, and chemical burns. These injuries can be extremely disfiguring, excruciatingly painful, and often leave behind permanent damage.
- Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) – Many explosion victims suffer TBIs as a result of the force of the blast. Brain injuries are extremely dangerous and can cause permanent damage.
- Broken Bones and Lacerations – In addition to the force of the blast, explosions often shoot debris in all directions. From small pieces of metal to large hand tools, explosions can turn workplace surroundings into shrapnel.
For refinery plant explosion victims, recovery can be an extremely long road, and many will never fully regain their former abilities. Not only do victims face extensive medical costs, but they could also be looking at a lifetime of special care, therapy, and medications. Many refinery explosion victims are unable to return to work for a long time, if at all, which puts an even heavier financial burden on them and their families.
Texas Refinery Plant Explosion Lawyers
The investigations into refinery and plant explosions in Texas have revealed ongoing safety violations cause these devastating events. Oil and gas industry accident victims can turn to McMillan Law Firm to investigate the circumstances around an explosion or other workplace incident and pursue action against all responsible parties. Contact us today to see how we can help refinery explosion victims and their families.