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June 21st, 2022

Texas Refineries and the Risks Their Workers Face

Given the number of people working in area refineries, chances are good workers are seriously injured on the job every day. The cause may be specific to refineries, or your injury could happen on any job. Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, LLP represents injured workers to help them get the medical treatment, rehabilitation, and compensation they deserve.

You may be the victim of an uncaring employer cutting costs and putting profits ahead of safety. You may lack safety equipment or proper training. Management might overlook dangerous practices or conditions. Refinery employees may also suffer injuries because of mistakes by co-workers, contractors working at the site, or the plant is unsafe because of how it’s designed, built, modified, or maintained.

Petroleum Refining is a Major Industry in Texas

More than a quarter (27.4%) of US crude oil production comes from the Gulf Coast, according to the Greater Houston Partnership. Nine of the country’s twenty top-producing refineries as of 2021 were located in Texas, reports the US Energy Information Administration (USEIA). They produced more than two-thirds of the total output of that group. These plants are in:

  • Port Arthur
  • Galveston Bay
  • Baytown
  • Beaumont
  • Deer Park
  • Corpus Christi
  • Corpus Christi West
  • Sweeny
  • Houston

The USEIA also states that 29 petroleum refineries are operating in Texas. The state estimates about 75,000 people work in the petrochemical industry in Texas.

What are Common Refinery Worker Injuries?

Frequent injuries to people working in refineries include:

  • Crush injuries: Workers are crushed by falling debris or heavy equipment. They may suffer head injuries, broken bones, and internal injuries
  • Lung damage: Refinery workers are exposed to a wide range of toxic airborne substances and gasses. They can cause acute injuries needing immediate attention or chronic lung damage that gets worse over time
  • Burns: Workers can suffer burns from hot equipment, or flammable liquids or gasses may ignite. Chemical burns can impact their skin or eyes. They may inhale toxic smoke, chemical vapors, or air heated by an explosion or fire, burning their lungs. Burns can be fatal or disabling and leave permanent physical and emotional scars
  • Hearing loss: Without proper protection, the sounds from loud refinery equipment or explosions can cause sudden hearing loss, or it will degrade the longer the person works there
  • Orthopedic and traumatic brain injuries: The force of an explosion or a fall from height or just while walking may cause a concussion or other permanent brain damage, leaving or temporarily or permanently disabled. Falls and explosions may also break bones and cause ligament damage

Each accident is unique, and an employee may suffer multiple injuries in the same accident.

What Causes Refinery Work Injuries?

There are many possible causes. One mistake after another by multiple people may lead to a situation where a severe accident becomes inevitable. Some of those causes include:

  • Operator error: An employee is poorly trained, inattentive, distracted, or tired. A staff shortage may result in not enough workers doing too much, and mistakes happen. Workers may injure themselves or others
  • Outdated refineries: A refinery may be more than 40 years old, and obsolete equipment may fail. Management may try to push dangerous equipment to last longer to save money. Repairs and equipment replacement may be avoided because they may reduce or stop production, significantly reducing productivity
  • Faulty equipment: It may not be properly designed, constructed, maintained, or inspected. Faulty equipment is an accident waiting to happen
  • Vehicle accidents: Heavy trucks and passenger vehicles may constantly come in and out of a refinery. They may collide with each other or hit pedestrians
  • Soft-tissue injuries due to physical labor: Many refinery jobs are physically demanding. Muscle, ligament, and back injuries may result

People make mistakes, and equipment and tools don’t work all the time perfectly. Given the complexity of refinery operations, their danger, and the number of workers involved, severe refinery worker injuries are inevitable.

How Can Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, LLP Help an Injured Refinery Worker?

If you were injured while working for your employer, you might qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. If the accident was caused, in part or entirely, by another party, like a contractor or equipment supplier, you may also be able to file a personal injury insurance claim or lawsuit to obtain compensation for your injuries.

The attorneys at Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P. know how to win cases against small and large companies. We are dedicated to your cause and will help you fight and win your case. Don’t worry about costs when you contact us – we work on contingency, and we’ll evaluate your case during a free consultation.

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