On January 16, 2016, an early afternoon explosion at the PeroxyChem Bayport plant in Pasadena, Texas, claimed the life of one contractor and injured three others. Preliminary reports from plant officials indicate that a routine transfer of chemicals was underway at the time of the accident. A spokesperson for the Pasadena Fire Marshal’s office indicated that an over-pressurized tank of oil-based cleaning solution was responsible for the Pasadena chemical plant explosion. Both the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have been notified of the incident and are currently beginning investigations to determine whether negligence on the part of PeroxyChem may have played a role in this tragic accident.
Accidents Haunt the Chemical Industry
The PeroxyChem explosion follows on the heels of several other incidents involving petrochemical and chemical plant explosions:
- Four people were injured on December 15, 2015, when a malfunctioning machine sprayed repair workers with molten plastic at Moore Rod and Pipe, located in Humble, Texas.
- On August 14, 2015, a series of explosions demolished much of the DrillChem chemical plant in Conroe, Texas. Residents within two miles of the plant were asked to shelter in place because of the risk of toxic fumes released during the ensuing fire. To date, no reports of direct injuries have been made regarding this incident.
- Three contract workers were burned in a massive fire at the Marathon Petroleum Galveston Bay refinery. The fire broke out in the early morning hours of January 11, 2016, in a unit that was offline for maintenance. No cause has yet been determined for this fire.
- On October 2, 2015, an explosion and fire at the SunEdison chemical processing facility in Pasadena, Texas, caused injuries to four workers and released significant amounts of a chemical called silane, which can potentially cause respiratory problems and frostbite with prolonged exposure. SunEdison announced that the facility would reopen less than one week after this Pasadena petrochemical plant explosion, a move questioned by many experts in the field of industrial safety and environmental protection.
These incidents highlight an ongoing problem in the petrochemical and chemical processing industries. Lack of attention to safety issues and failure to perform needed maintenance in accordance with industry standards has led to numerous injuries and accidents that could have been prevented.
An Industry-Wide Issue of Safety
The CSB is tasked with investigating accidents in the chemical processing industry to determine the underlying causes of these incidents. These investigations, however, can take years to complete. For example, the final report on the April 17, 2013, explosion at the West Fertilizer plant in West, Texas, is expected to be released on January 28, 2016. Twelve first responders and three members of the general public were killed in this accident. While the CSB does not directly penalize companies for safety violations, the findings presented by this agency can be used by OSHA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to support citations, fines and other penalties resulting from failure to abide by safety regulations. OSHA also conducts investigations of chemical plant accidents and can perform inspections of facilities to ensure that safety concerns are being addressed during the interim period before accident investigations are complete. Workers who have been injured in chemical plant fires and explosions may encounter obstacles when seeking compensation for their injuries, medical expenses and other claims. By retaining the services of an experienced refinery explosion lawyer, these individuals and their families can even the playing field and ensure that their case is heard and that they can achieve a fair settlement. If the case goes to court, a qualified industrial explosion attorney can provide assertive representation to ensure that companies are held responsible for their failure to protect worker safety in the workplace. This can ensure a degree of accountability for corporate entities and can provide closure for families mourning the loss of loved ones in these industrial accidents.