An explosion on October 2, 2015, injured four workers at the SunEdison granular polysilicon plant in Pasadena, Texas. While all four workers are expected to survive, the accident served as a harsh reminder of previous incidents at the plant and the ongoing safety issues that continue to plague the Texas petrochemical industry. For those injured in the recent Pasadena industrial explosion, consulting with an experienced attorney can provide the legal support needed to ensure fair settlements and compensation for the negligence of SunEdison in this case. Investigation Still Underway SunEdison officials indicated that the plant has been cleared to return to operations as of October 4, 2015, but a safety inspection is still being conducted. The workers injured were performing routine maintenance work when a silane leak triggered a fire and explosion. Silane is a precursor to silicon; it has numerous applications in the production of semiconductors, water repellent compounds and construction sealants. It is also highly flammable, a property that led directly to the explosion on October 2. All four workers were hospitalized with burns after the accident. Three have since been released; the fourth will require extensive rehabilitation due to the extent of his injuries. A History of Safety Failures SunEdison’s Pasadena plant has been under scrutiny by federal agencies for some time due to previous incidents and safety violations:
- A fire broke out in the same area on April 24, 2008, as a result of a silicon tetrafluoride leak. SunEdison did not report the incident to investors and shareholders for over a month and was sued in federal court for this failure to disclose material information affecting the plant’s revenues. SunEdison was cited for 10 violations of OSHA safety regulations and was assessed fines of more than $16,000 for the incident.
- Less than two months later, SunEdison was again cited by OSHA for workplace safety violations.
- SunEdison was fined for five additional OSHA violations in 2011 and paid $35,000 in fines for, among other things, unsafe management of hazardous chemicals in its Pasadena plant.
Local agencies believe that no risk was posed to the general public by the latest explosion, but questions remain regarding the overall safety of operations at the SunEdison Pasadena facility. Not the Only Violator The SunEdison plant is far from the only company in the Houston area that has incurred violations due to negligent safety procedures. The gas leak at DuPont’s La Porte petrochemical plant in November 2014 claimed the lives of four workers and released dangerous chemicals into the atmosphere. On August 14, 2015, a massive fire and numerous explosions rocked the DrillChem plant in Conroe, Texas, just north of Houston. While no fatalities occurred during this explosion, the pattern of industrial accidents in the Texas petrochemical industry has attracted national attention from watchdog organizations and government agencies alike. A Systemic Pattern of Neglect According to data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in September of 2015, Texas continued to lead the nation in on-the-job deaths with 524 workplace fatalities reported for 2014. While a considerable percentage of these incidents were linked to transportation, others were directly related to safety failures on the part of employers. The recent Pasadena chemical plant explosion adds still more evidence of the corporate neglect of worker safety endemic throughout the energy industry. Working with a qualified Texas City refinery explosion lawyer can provide real legal help for those injured in petrochemical plants and other energy-related accidents. By taking steps to hold corporations accountable for their ongoing lack of care for safety in their facilities, injured workers and families can not only achieve the settlement amounts to which they are rightly entitled but can also make a positive difference for others in these high-risk environments.