On January 4, 2016, an industrial explosion at a Midland, Texas, water treatment plant claimed the life of one worker and caused significant damage to property. The incident occurred at the Water Rescue Services plant on County Road 1140. While no definitive cause for the fire and explosion has yet been determined, initial reports indicate that the blaze was likely sparked by a reaction between chemicals being mixed at the plant, which processes water used in hydraulic fracturing processes. Water Rescue Services employee Julian Gallardo was pronounced dead at the scene. As the latest in a series of industrial explosions that have occurred in Texas and across the U.S., this tragic and deadly accident highlights the ongoing risks and systemic failures of companies to protect the safety of their workers.Extensive Property Damage and Evacuation of Local ResidentsThe industrial plant explosion and blaze caused significant damage to the Water Rescue Services facility as well as to vehicles and mobile homes located in a nearby RV park. Residents in the area were evacuated while the risks of the chemical fire were evaluated. The exact chemicals involved in the explosion are still not known; it is believed that 23-year-old Julian Gallardo was mixing chemical compounds when they ignited and exploded with force, destroying the building in which Gallardo was working at the time.Workers at Risk across TexasThe fatal explosion in Midland, Texas is far from an isolated incident. Numerous industrial accidents have occurred across the Lone Star State in recent years, including the following:
- On December 15, 2015, four workers were seriously burned at Moore Rod and Pipe in Humble, Texas, when a machine malfunctioned and sprayed melted plastic on them.
- More than 160 people sustained injuries and 15 people were killed in the West Fertilizer Company explosions and fires that occurred April 17, 2013. The plant was completely destroyed in the blast.
- An accident involving the release of toxic methyl mercaptan took the lives of four workers and injured a fifth at the La Porte DuPont facility on November 15, 2014.
- On February 16, 2007, a propane fire at the Valero McKee Refinery in Sunray resulted in serious burn injuries to three workers and closed down the facility indefinitely.
The failure of Texas companies to prioritize safety in the workplace continues to present serious risks for those individuals employed in the petrochemical and oil refining industries.Limited Action by Government AgenciesThe U.S. Chemical Safety Board is responsible for investigating chemical plant explosions and accidents and for providing recommendations for safety improvements after these incidents occur. Additionally, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is charged with establishing guidelines and best practices for businesses in protecting their workers against hazards in the workplace. In most cases, however, these federal agencies do not intervene until a serious accident has already been reported. This lack of action on the part of corporate administrators and government officials is in part responsible for the continued string of accidents in the petrochemical industry. By taking a more proactive approach toward safety in the workplace, industry leaders and government agencies can reduce the likelihood of these types of incidents in the future.If you have lost a family member or have sustained serious injuries because of an industrial accident, working with an established Houston refinery explosion lawyer can provide real support in pursuing a claim against the responsible parties. The expert representation offered by these legal professionals can even the odds when negotiating with attorneys or insurance adjusters regarding fair compensation for your claims. By taking steps to hold negligent employers and companies accountable for their lack of action, you can potentially make a positive difference in the lives of workers throughout the Texas energy industry.