More Safety Initiatives Needed to Avoid Texas Oil Refinery Accidents
January 31, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/ -- A recent oil refinery fire was another in a long list of accidents that have made headlines in one of the most dangerous industries. The fire broke out in a residual hydrotreater at the Texas City, Texas refinery on October 30. The refinery's fire department was able to extinguish the blaze after an hour and a half with no injuries.
Luckily, the recent fire did not injure any workers. Of some concern is that the incident occurred at the same site as the worst U.S. refinery accident, the March 2005 explosion that killed 15 workers and injured 180 others.
The workers' compensation system provides a safety net for those workers and their families who are injured or killed in Texas workplace accidents. The system can be complex to navigate and a Texas workers' compensation attorney can assist in navigating the process.
Oil refinery industry accidents and regulators response
Across the United States, reports of refinery accidents remain too common. Another accident at a Chevron refinery in Richmond last August was another narrow escape after a flammable vapor escaped a failed pipe.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently cited another Texas refinery for exposing employees to hydrofluoric acid after receiving a complaint. A leak at a flange during routine maintenance work was blamed.
These reports come despite a federal effort to crack down on violations in industry. In 2007, when OSHA launched its three-year enforcement effort, federal officials noted that since OSHA safety standards went into effect in 1992, "no other industry sector has had as many fatal or catastrophic incidents related to the release" of volatile chemical exposure as refineries.
By 2010, federal officials had found a "deeply troubling" pattern of breakdowns in workplace safety among the 126 refineries it had inspected across the country. Fines for various refineries averaged $76,000.
A call to improve safety
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board investigates many of the accidents. The chair of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, Rafael Moure-Eraso, in a recent op-ed raised concerns regarding the integrity of piping and equipment. Deteriorating equipment is a common theme. Questions focus on why some, but not all corroded segments of piping are sometimes replaced. Refineries need to strengthen safety measures and preventative maintenance programs.
The industry has made some strides toward protecting workers, but breakdowns in equipment still have the potential to injure employees. While many employees working in the oil and gas industry recognize the dangers, their employers still have a duty to ensure as safe of a workplace as possible. After any workplace injury, it is important to contact an experienced workers' compensation lawyer. A consultation and discussion of your individual circumstances is one way to determine the extent of available remedies and any claim complications.