Ten years ago on March 23, a Texas City refinery explosion killed 15 people and injured more than 170 others when a hydrocarbon vapour cloud ignited at the facility’s ISOM isomerization process unit.
In the aftermath of the accident, a U.S. Chemical Safety Board report found that deficiencies at all organizational levels of BP, which owned the plant, contributed to the explosion. Poor maintenance, lack of equipment updates, and cost cutting with regard to safety measures all played a role in what was a determined to be a completely preventable tragedy.
Despite the investigations, reports, lawsuits and news media coverage that followed in the months and years after one of the nation’s worst refinery disasters, it seems little has improved in U.S. plants since March 23, 2005.
According to a joint investigative report by the Houston Chronicle and Texas Tribune, there were at least 64 deaths in U.S. refineries in the 10 years leading up to the BP Texas City blast. In the 10 years since, at least 58 people have died.
Additionally, the Department of Energy reports that almost 350 fires have occurred in U.S. refineries in the past 8 years — that’s almost one a week.
Union workers at several plants throughout the nation have been on strike since Feb. 1 due to breakdowns in contract negotiations between unions and oil companies. Hourly employees at the Texas City refinery, which is now owned by Marathon, are among these workers. Safety concerns are among the key issues workers are striking over.
“In the wake of such a tragedy, you hope that those responsible will make better choices and not sacrifice workers’ safety to turn a profit,” said SMSH attorney Matthew Shaffer, who represented several workers who were injured in the 2005 blast. “Unfortunately, this has not been the case, and these companies are still earning their money on the backs of the workers they fail to protect.”
While the nature of working in a refinery may come with inherent risks that other jobs don’t have, plant workers still have the right to a work environment that is as safe and well-maintained as possible, Shaffer said.
The refinery explosion attorneys at Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., Accident & Injury Lawyers have represented many workers who were injured and the families of workers who have been killed in plant accidents. If you or a loved one was injured while working in a refinery, contact us today for assistance.