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Lone Star Disasters: Texas Leads in Chemical Plant & Refinery Accidents

Nov 27, 2023 | Industrial Accident, Workplace Accident

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In the heart of the United States lies the Lone Star State, a powerhouse leading most sectors of the economy. Despite its undeniable progress, Texas has garnered an unwanted title – leading the nation in chemical plant and refinery accidents. A trend so alarming that a surge of actions is called for to future-proof the industry. Walker Texas Lawyer, a reputable Plant Explosion & Refinery Accident Lawyer, seeks to spotlight these crucial issues and push for better safety protocols to protect both people and the environment.

Texas Is Home to The Most Chemical Accidents Since 2021

Since the beginning of 2021, Texas has been witness to a staggering 79 chemical incidents. This figure encompasses a variety of dangers, including leaks, spills, and fires, and the particularly perilous chemical plant and refinery explosions. To provide a sense of scale, compare Texas’ chemical incident rate with those of other states. The second most incidents occurred in California, which reported 49 hazardous events. Meanwhile, Louisiana, another state with a considerable presence of chemical and fossil fuel industries, recorded 39 incidents in the same period.

These chemical threats typically happen across the value chain of fossil fuel and chemical industries. Central to these sectors, Texas hosts an extensive array of subsectors that generate billions of dollars each year. While immensely profitable, these industries often put workers at risk, highlighting a concerning disregard for safety in favor of production.

Key Risks in Subsectors:

Oil and Gas Extraction: The extraction process tends to be fraught with hazards. Threats such as gas leaks and explosions, presenting a substantial risk to workers and the surrounding environment.

Production of Fuels, Plastics, Pesticides, Fertilizers, and Petrochemicals: Production plants often house large quantities of volatile chemicals. Any mishap in handling these substances or equipment failure could lead to a disastrous event.

Storage and Distribution of Volatile Chemicals: Transporting these chemicals, whether by road or rail, is another risky venture. Losses in transit can occur due to accidents or improper handling, leading to chemical spills.

Disposal and Recycling of Petrochemical Products: Handling waste products, such as plastics, paint, and tires, also poses significant risks. Incidents can occur during the recycling process or disposing of these items.

Just recently, an incident in Shepherd, Texas, demonstrated the inherent risk in these sectors. A chemical plant explosion in this small town, located to the north of Houston, caused harm to a worker. As well as, instigated local authorities to enforce a county-wide shelter-in-place order. Residents of San Jacinto County were compelled to bunker down nearly all day. This intensifies the ongoing discussion about the safety measures within these lucrative, yet perilous, industries.

The Human and Social Costs of Chemical Accidents since 2021

The oil, gas, and petrochemical sectors are a vital part of the US economy, and yet, their role in human safety – or lack thereof – is disconcerting. Since 2021, the nation was confronted with a series of catastrophic incidents. Over 95 accidents occurred within the oil and gas industry while the plastics and petrochemical manufacturing sector witnessed a staggering 340 mishaps.

The repercussions of these accidents on the well-being of workers and the surrounding communities are both evident and shocking. Unsettling statistics underline the severity of the issue:

  • Tragically, the number of people who died as a result of hazardous chemical incidents totaled 43. This marks a significant and devastating human toll.
  • Over 150 of these incidents resulted in further damage, showing up as injuries leading to hospitalization or acute symptoms following exposure to deadly chemicals.
  • In line with the severe threat these accidents pose, 191 communities were either advised or mandated to evacuate as a safety precaution.
  • Indicating the persisting risk, 101 communities were instructed to stay in-place, often for lengthy durations. This is a striking reminder of the persistent danger that looms in the vicinity of these industries.

In all, these alarming figures paint a picture of industries that need urgent safety overhauls to prevent further loss and damage to human lives and communities.

Causes Of Refinery Accidents

Industrial accidents in Texas are a multifaceted problem with a myriad of triggers that often intertwine, ranging from fundamental issues such as design flaws and equipment failure to human missteps and systemic regulatory inadequacies.

Equipment Failure

One major contributing factor to these accidents is equipment failure. Chemical plants and refineries contain complex, integrated systems of machinery and equipment, including pipes, pressure vessels, and control systems. Over time, regular wear and tear, along with extreme operating conditions, can lead to the malfunction or breakage of this equipment. Catastrophic failures can often cause fire, explosions, hazardous material leaks, or other serious incidents, particularly when the equipment in question is housing or transporting volatile substances.

Operational Errors

Operational errors can also lead to serious accidents. Human error remains a significant factor in industrial accidents as workers are often responsible for handling dangerous substances or controlling machinery and systems that function under high pressure. Misjudgments, distractions, lack of training, or simple mistakes can all lead to incidents that put both workers and nearby communities at risk.

Insufficient Safety Practices

Deficiencies in safety management practices within the chemical and refining industry only compound these risks. For example, inadequate hazard identification and risk assessment techniques can leave potential issues unnoticed until it’s too late to prevent an accident. On top of this, poor maintenance practices can exacerbate equipment deterioration, leading to an increased risk of failure.

Regulatory Environment

Texas’ pro-industry regulatory environment is another significant concern. State regulations are often criticized for being lax, allowing industries to skirt safety measures in favor of cost-saving practices. This leniency often leads to sub-standard safety protocols, vulnerability to equipment failures, and inadequate training for handling potentially hazardous situations – all of which increase the likelihood of accidents.

Economics

Geographically, Texas hosts a high density of chemical plants and refineries within its territory, significantly raising the probability of such accidents. Moreover, the state’s growth-focused economic policies invite companies to set up more plants, further escalating the risks associated with such concentration of potential hazard sources.

In conclusion, chemical and refinery accidents in Texas arise from a complex interplay of equipment failure, human error, systemic regulatory shortcomings, and geographical concentration of hazardous industries. To effectively mitigate these disasters, a comprehensive understanding and integrated approach towards each of these risk factors are required. We need to encompass a blend of technical, managerial, and policy-oriented solutions.

A Call for Strengthened Regulations

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently working on finalizing proposed modifications to the regulations pertaining to facilities that handle hazardous chemicals. They are focused on emergency preparedness and considerations for climate change. Intriguingly, the agency identified that approximately 31% of these sites lie in zones that bear an elevated risk of natural hazards, including flooding, wildfires, storm surges, and sea-level rises.

However, the proposed changes have been met with resistance, chiefly from industry associations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute, which have voiced their opposition as expected.

This message has been reiterated before, and it bears reinforcing: More stringent regulations are direly needed for U.S. chemical facilities. Around 200 million residents live in proximity to these plants. Additionally, a significant portion of these individuals hail from disadvantaged communities. The potential risks posed by these facilities necessitate a more comprehensive framework of rules to ensure the safety and protection of these neighboring communities.

Injured in A Refinery or Chemical Plant Accident?  Call Walker Today for A Free Consultation.

In summary, Lone Star Disasters casts a startling light on the high rate of chemical and refinery accidents in the state of Texas. With the industries thriving and continuously expanding, these incidents come at a great cost to human lives, local communities, and the environment. The safety shortcomings and various risk factors that persistently plague facilities in Texas. It is time to call for immediate and decisive action. To protect communities from the detrimental impacts of these accidents and to hold the responsible parties accountable, it is imperative to mobilize all available resources, such as legal assistance.

Walker Texas Lawyer has a deep commitment to those affected by chemical plant and refinery accidents. He understands that these disasters result not only in physical injuries but can also cause financial hardship, emotional trauma and irreversible environmental damage. As a leading Refinery Accident Lawyer, he is familiar with the complexities and the devastating consequences of these incidents. He is well-equipped to help victims navigate their claims and fight for their legal rights.

If you or loved one has been injured, call Walker Texas Lawyer today for a free consultation. He will answer your questions, explain your rights, and provide you with the information you need to decide what’s best for you and your family.

CONTACT HOUSTON’S PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER, WALKER TEXAS LAWYER FOR HELP

For more information, contact Houston’s accident law firm of Walker Texas Lawyer by calling (713) 552-1117.

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