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Refinery and Plant Explosions: Causes and Consequences

Published on Jun 15, 2021 by Thomas Law Offices.

Explosion Accident Lawyer

One of the worst refinery explosions in recent history claimed the lives of 15 people and injured 170 others in 2005. BP’s Texas City Refinery explosion was caused by several actions resulting in vaporization ignited by a truck. In the end, the plant owners were accused of failings in equipment, risk management, and the general safety of the plant.

A refinery or plant explosion can upend so many lives and significantly affect a community. These incidents are preventable when proper measures are taken. In order to understand why these explosions happen and what to do if you or someone you loved has been injured, let’s take a look at the causes and consequences of refinery accidents.

Refineries and OSHA Requirements

Because oil refineries and other types of plants have the potential to be dangerous, owners, employers, and employees are required to work under specific OSHA guidelines. When employers deprive workers of a safe environment, OSHA issues fines, citations, and other penalties. While employees need to abide by their employers’ rules, it’s the employers’ job to ensure that every measure is taken to promote the safety, health, and well-being of those on the job site and surrounding communities.

General standard’s from OSHA include creating a safe work environment free from hazards, regularly checking workplace conditions, equipping employees with proper tools and equipment, maintaining all equipment and tools, warning workers of hazards, training workers in health and safety procedures, and regularly reviewing those standards, and notifying OSHA of an accident within eight hours if three or more workers were injured or one or more workers died.

Reasons for Refinery and Plant Explosions

Explosions are more likely in work environments that regularly use chemicals, like chemical plants, oil refineries, and industrial complexes. Chemical explosions are caused by three elements: sudden gas, heat, and a dangerous reaction. Common situations that include those three elements are careless cigarette smoking, defective equipment, poor safety procedures, well blowouts, poorly trained workers, and unseen corrosion.

One of the most common explosion types is the boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion (BLEVE). These explosions are highly dangerous and can easily cause catastrophic injuries, fatalities, and property damages.

BLEVEs happen when a liquid in a sealed container begins to boil. As a liquid substance is heated, it turns into a gas. As that gas expands and creates pressure inside the container, an explosion happens if the gas expands beyond the capacity of the container. The boiling temperature depends on the pressure, but generally speaking, higher temperatures necessitate higher boiling temperatures. BLEVE explosions typically happen in refineries and plants when a liquid, like CO2, oxygen, or industrial gasses, is stored in a container above its normal pressure boiling temperatures.

Plant Explosion Injuries and Property Damage

Injuries at plan explosions vary greatly. Statistically, the worst injuries are from extreme heat – heat that sometimes reached over a thousand degrees. Anything in the direct vicinity would be vaporized. Even someone hundreds of yards away from the epicenter could suffer third-degree burns over a large portion of their body.

In addition to the heat causes severe burns, the force of the blast can hurl the human body into objects and result in the infrastructure crashing to the ground. Falling walls, ceilings, and equipment can cause crush injuries requiring amputation, broken bones, spinal cord trauma, and traumatic brain injuries.

It’s also important to recognize the injuries that are not physical. Many victims in the explosion have post-traumatic stress disorder. The anxiety, mental distress, and depression that can set in can seriously impact a person’s day-to-day life.

While the refinery or plant location is likely to sustain the most amount of damage, the force often pushes outward and can throw pieces of the building in many directions. Vehicles, homes, and businesses nearby may be at risk for damage. There’s also the change of long-term damage from contamination. Long-term exposure to toxic chemicals can result in diseases like cancer or failing organs.

Contact Thomas Law Offices

If you’ve been injured in a refinery explosion, you may be able to take legal action if the cause of the explosion was related to someone else’s negligence. At Thomas Law Offices, our attorneys are dedicated to helping accident victims recover as fully as possible. We understand the struggles you’re facing, and we’re prepared to fight on your behalf to ensure you receive the compensation you need to get your life back in order. Contact us today to learn more.

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Meet Our Founder

Tad Thomas - Trial Lawyer

Tad Thomas

Managing Partner

Tad Thomas has dedicated his practice to representing plaintiffs in various types of civil litigation, including personal injury, business litigation, class actions, and multi-district litigation.

After graduating with his law degree in 2000 from Salmon P. Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University, Mr. Thomas immediately opened his own private practice and began representing injury victims.

In 2011, Thomas Law Offices was established in Louisville, Kentucky. Over the past decade, Mr. Thomas has expanded his firm and now has offices in three additional locations: Cincinnati, Ohio, Columbia, Missouri, and Chicago, Illinois. He is also a frequent lecturer on topics like trial skills and ethics and technology.

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