Texas Refinery & Plant Explosion Lawyer
Houston Plant & Refinery Accident Attorneys
The oil and gas industry is a key industry in Texas employing hundreds of thousands of workers across our great State. Places next door to Houston like Texas City and Pasadena have some of the largest oil and gas refineries in the United States. Unfortunately, working in the oil and gas industry can be very hazardous. Because of the risks that oil and gas workers face on a day-to-day basis, there are volumes of Federal laws promulgated by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) aimed at protecting workers and preventing refinery accidents. If you are a victim of an oil and gas refinery accident, you need a knowledgeable refinery accident attorney who knows how to research the law and use it to hold the refinery owners responsible for their negligent failure to enforce the safety rules. Call Simmons and Fletcher, P.C., today for a 100% free case evaluation. Get advice from a plant explosion lawyer you can trust.
Why Are Refinery Accidents So Dangerous?
An oil refinery is an industrial processing plant that separates the hydrocarbon molecules of crude oil thereby breaking the crude down into various components. Many of these components are flammable, explosive, corrosive, and/or carcinogenic. The facilities also tend to be very large and handle a large volume of the dangerous components as a result.
Petroleum is just one of the components produced by refineries. Other components generated from refining crude oil are used as the raw materials that chemical plants need to make plastics, nylon, detergents, solvents, and other household items. The process in and of itself involves using extreme heats, energy, and chemicals to convert matter from one form to another (such as liquids to gasses). The gasses and liquids are often highly flammable and can result in massive explosions if improperly mixed, ignited, or handled. Furthermore, many of the chemicals and gasses are toxic and/or corrosive.
Because the materials being handled are dangerous, numerous safety precautions must be exercised. Proper use of safety equipment is an absolute must. Proper training of all employees, contractors, and management is critical. Lockout/Tagout safety procedures must be observed by all persons present at the industrial plant.
Regular safety inspections are required for all oil and gas refineries. There are two basic types of inspections that need to be done. Routine safety inspections ensure that procedures are being followed on the job site. Inspection of the equipment at regular intervals is also necessary. Corrosion of the equipment, particularly in older, larger plants can be a serious problem if not inspected for. Failure to conduct safety inspections can result in equipment failure. This, in turn, can cause catastrophic results.
Causes of Refinery Accidents
Not all oil and gas refinery accidents are the same. Different refineries may focus on different products and handle different volumes. However, they all have to have certain basic parts that make them dangerous. Refineries require a storage area for crude oil. They require a distillery and various processing units that use energy to separate the hydrocarbon molecules. They require chemical cooling towers that cool down the heated components after separation. Refineries require a place and procedure to store and transport the petroleum and various chemical components once they have been separated. Also, Federal Law requires that any polluted soil from chemical spills or releases must be safely stored until it can be taken to an approved toxic clean-up site and purified. Thus, refineries require a storage area for polluted waste.
Accidents may occur during any of the steps of the process. Equipment failures are a major cause of oil and gas refinery explosions. Equipment failures can occur at the distillery, the processing units, or in the storage facilities. Whether it be due to a corroded pipe or a faulty valve when the equipment fails the resulting toxic chemical release may expose only a few in the immediate area to danger or it may result in an explosion with widespread effects. Exposure to chemical releases at oil and gas refineries are another type of accident we have successfully handled in our practice.
What Are Common Causes Plant Explosions?
Some of the common causes of injuries due to plant explosions include:
- Failure to maintain working emission monitoring systems
- Failure to comply with toxic spill clean-up regulations
- Failure to maintain proper leak detection systems
- Failure to have remote shut-off safety systems.
There are volumes of federal Laws regulating emissions and safety procedures around large plants. Unfortunately, there is insignificant funding for the government to maintain a close watch on these companies to ensure compliance. As a result, much of the compliance is left up to the companies themselves. Unfortunately, in the corporate world, the importance of safety often yields to profits. Without the proper safety gear and procedures in place in advance, controllable plant fires often must be left to burn out on their own. This results in further injury to workers, area residents, and the environment.
Texas Plant Explosions From 2013-2020
2019 saw an alarming number of plant explosions and fires in the Houston area. Many of the chemicals produced in the manufacturing process are known carcinogens and can be highly toxic when released into the atmosphere via plant fires. If you or a loved one have suffered injury, illness, or death as the result of a plant explosion, a plant explosion lawyer can help you recover the compensation you deserve. Call a plant explosion attorney whose family is right here in Houston– giving us a vested interest in protecting people from toxic releases caused by plant fires and explosions. Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. has represented the rights of injured victims in Southeast Texas for over 40 years.
Sadly, toxic chemical releases due to plant explosions and plant fires have become too common of an occurrence in Texas. Some examples of recent plant explosions include:
- The Crosby Arkema Plant Explosion of 2017
- The ITC Deer Park Plant Explosion of 2019
- The Port Neches Plant Explosion of 2019
- The Watson Grinding & Mfg. Explosion of 2020
Each of the above plant explosions resulted in the loss of human life as well as millions of dollars of damage to persona and property.
Why Do Plant Explosions Often Cause Widespread Damage?
Oil and gas refineries are typically built out away from the main population for more reasons than just the sulfuric odors. While explosions and chemical releases obviously can cause serious injury and death to the employees working in and around the industrial plant, they can also cause injury and damages to people situated in the near vicinity of the refinery. The toxic chemicals released can carry for miles in the air, causing symptoms that range from minor eye irritation and sinus issues to permanent internal scarring of the throat and lungs. Permanent optic nerve damage can also result due to exposure to the toxic chemicals released. If you live around a refinery that has reported a toxic release, you should not take any symptoms you experience from a potential chemical exposure injury lightly. Seek immediate medical attention immediately.
In addition to injury to people, the widespread effects can cause damage to property as well. As we saw in the Gulf oil spill disaster, a chemical released into the environment can cause huge losses to businesses that depend upon the earth’s natural resources for their livelihood. Fisherman, farmers, and the tourist industry are just some examples of businesses that may sustain lost profits when a toxic tort occurs. Your home may lose resale value if your property is in an area that was subject to a toxic chemical release. If you suspect that you may have been damaged due to a toxic chemical release, call Simmons and Fletcher for a free case evaluation today.