Industrial explosions seriously injure or kill hundreds of Americans every year, both inside and outside of plants and factories. In fact, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), approximately 37,910 fires happen every year at industrial or manufacturing premises. On average, these incidents result in 16 civilian deaths, 273 civilian injures, and $1.2 billion in direct property damage annually.
Below, our Houston personal injury attorneys discuss five common causes of industrial explosions and discuss what you can do if you have been injured in one.
What Causes Industrial Explosions?
Industrial explosions have certain factors in common. In general, the five main causes of industrial explosions include the following:
#1. Hot Work
Most industrial plants perform hot work of some sort, whether that be burning, heating, soldering, or something else. Such work produces sparks that can reach temperatures greater than 1,000° Fahrenheit and can travel dozens of feet in the air. As such, hot work is one of the leading causes of industrial explosions.
#2. Electrical Hazards
Workers in industrial environments often handle exposed wiring and other hazardous electrical materials, which greatly increase the risk of ignition and a subsequent explosion. In fact, the NFPA estimates that electrical issues account for approximately 24% of structural fires.
#3. Flammable Liquids and Gasses
Certain liquids and gasses, such as fuel, oil, and more, are inherently flammable and pose significant explosion risks in the industrial workplace. As such, these materials must be marked clearly and handled with extreme caution. When this does not happen, these materials may ignite when they come into contact with fire or sparks.
#4. Combustible Dust
Liquids and gasses are not the only materials that are flammable. Dust is a commonly overlooked fire hazard. Dust with a certain composition can become combustible and pose a significant explosion risk.
Combustible dust is often the cause of industrial fires and explosions in the food manufacturing, woodworking, and pharmaceutical industries. However, any industrial plant can contain dust that may become flammable.
Additionally, combustible dust is extremely dangerous due to its intangible nature. If a fire ignites due to dust, it can be very difficult to contain and put out.
#5. Natural Gas Explosions
Natural gas is a naturally occurring gas mixture consisting primarily of methane and sometimes a small amount of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, hydrogen sulfide, or helium. This gas can combust when leaked and combined with a spark, which is what’s commonly found in most industrial plants.
One of the main ways that a natural gas leak occurs is when people dig into gas lines and cause either immediate damage or long-term damage that can lead to a later explosion.
Natural gas is inherently colorless and nearly odorless. In order to assist consumers in detecting leaks, an odorizer with a scent similar to rotten eggs is added. This, however, is not a fool-proof method to prevent natural gas explosions.
What Can Employers Do to Protect Workers?
All of the aforementioned fire and explosion risks can be greatly mitigated when employers take the necessary steps to maintain machinery and train workers. And, in fact, it is employers’ legal responsibility to do so.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was established in 1971 to assure safe working conditions for employees by setting and enforcing standards and by providing education and training. The standards that all U.S. employers are required to follow include the following:
Train workers in a language all employees understand.
Provide machines that are safe and well-maintained.
Provide required safety gear, such as gloves or a harness and lifeline for falls.
Protect workers from toxic chemicals.
Additionally, U.S. employers may not retaliate against workers for exercising their rights provided under OSHA, including:
Requesting an OSHA inspection and speaking to the inspector
Reporting an injury or illness and getting copies of medical records
Seeing copies of the workplace injury and illness log
Reviewing records of work-related injuries and illnesses
Getting copies of test results done to find hazards in the workplace
How to Report an Unsafe Workplace
If you feel like your employer is not adhering to OSHA’s guidelines and that your workplace is unsafe as a result, you may file a complaint with OSHA without fear of retaliation from your employer. Your complaint may remain confidential and an OSHA inspection may be scheduled at your workplace as a result. There are several different ways to file a complaint to OSHA, including:
Submit an online complaint form to OSHA
Fax, mail, or email the OSHA complaint form
Call OSHA at (800) 321-6742
Visit your local OSHA office
There are certain situations in which an OSHA report must be filed, including:
When an employee is killed on the job
When an employee suffers a hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye
Injured in an Industrial Explosion? Contact Us Today
If you have been injured in an industrial explosion, our Houston personal injury attorneys are here to help. Our team has extensive experience protecting injured victims’ rights against parties that caused an explosion. In order to do this, our team works to demonstrate the following:
Establish the duty of care by determining which person or entity was responsible for making sure no one is harmed while work is being done.
Show that the defendant did not fulfill that duty.
Show that the defendant’s breach of this duty caused the injury to be suffered.
Show that the plaintiff suffered damages as a result of the defendant’s action or inaction.
The damages we may be able to recover for you include compensation for medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, and loss of companionship.
Don’t spend another day in silence. Contact The Ammons Law Firm LLP today at (281) 801-5617 to schedule a free consultation.