Numerous federal and state laws require employers to provide a safe environment for employees.
The Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act, passed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in 1970, regulates safety and health conditions in most private industries and public sectors.
Employers regulated under the OSH Act must comply with the safety and health standards set forth by OSHA. These standards are reinforced through workplace inspections and investigations. Any employer who fails in this duty may be held liable for any accidents and injuries that occur due to their negligence.
Recently, several Texas industrial workers have fallen victim to employers’ violations of these federal regulations. Several explosions have rocked the state of Texas in recent months which were largely caused by an employer’s failure to maintain a safe environment for employees.
Below, our Houston personal injury attorneys discuss recent industrial accidents in Texas, what caused them, and the parties that may be held liable in present and future workplace accidents.
Recent Industrial Accidents in Texas
A slew of recent workplace accidents has injured or killed Texas workers in the last couple of months, including the following.
Jones County Oil Field Explosion
On January 11, 2020, Jorge Martinez was power washing an oil tank battery’s heater unit when it exploded and threw him backward onto a vehicle. Mr. Martinez suffered severe injuries and passed away soon after being admitted to the hospital.
Accident reports later indicated that the oil tank battery was scheduled to undergo maintenance for a leak, which never occurred.
Lake Charles Chemicals Project Explosion
On January 13, 2020, the Lake Charles Chemicals Project facility experienced a significant explosion that resulted in a fire.
Investigations of the incident found that serious misconduct was rampant at the highest levels of the company’s leadership. Prior to the explosion and fire, independent consultants had expressed concerns about ongoing control weaknesses and technical challenges at the plant that went unaddressed by senior leadership.
Watson Grinding and Manufacturing Explosion
On January 24, 2020, a massive explosion at Watson Grinding and Manufacturing rocked the city of Houston in the early hours of the morning. Two workers, Frank Flores and Gerardo Castorena, were killed in the blast, and dozens more were injured.
In addition to these casualties, the blast damaged over 200 homes, with many sustaining permanent damage.
Investigations of the incident found a leak in a 2,000-gallon tank of propylene, a colorless, highly flammable gas that can explode in a fire. People exposed to the gas can also become dizzy, light-headed, and experience liver damage.
Who’s Responsible for Workplace Accidents?
Under federal law, workers are entitled to a safe workplace provided by their employers. The OSH Act also ensures that workers have the following rights:
Be trained in a language they understand
Work on machines that are safe
Be provided with safety gear
Be protected from toxic chemicals
Request an OSHA investigation and speak to the inspector
Report an injury or illness and get copies of medical records
See copies of the workplace injury and illness log
Review records of work-related injuries and illnesses
Under these federal laws, employers have a great amount of responsibility to maintain safe premises. Therefore, when a workplace accident does occur due to an unsafe condition that the employer knew about or should have known about, then they may be held liable for any injuries that happen as a result.
Do not be afraid to report any dangerous conditions in your workplace. Another right that you have under the OSH Act is that you may not be fired, demoted, transferred, or otherwise retaliated against by your employer for exercising your rights under the law.
If, however, you do file a complaint and you believe you were later retaliated against by your employer, you may file a whistleblower complaint within 30 days of the alleged retaliation.
How Can Employers Protect Their Workers Better?
There is no doubt that employers, particularly Texas industrial employers, can do more to protect their workers from accidents and injuries. All employers should be doing the following, at a bare minimum:
Identify and eliminate potential hazards.
Make sure all workers are properly trained in a language they understand.
Make sure posted instructional materials are in more than one language.
Ensure workers have up-to-date and functioning safety equipment.
Create a streamlined process for reporting equipment damage or failure.
Create a safety committee and hold frequent meetings.
Injured in a Workplace Accident? We’re Here For You
In the wake of a workplace accident, it may seem overwhelming to take on your employer, since they are the main source of your income and livelihood.
It’s important to remember, however, that your employer owes you more than just a paycheck. They owe you a safe working environment, by law. And when they fail in this fundamental duty, they must be held accountable.
At The Ammons Law Firm, we have helped countless clients across the state recover the compensation they deserve from their employer after a devastating accident.
The time is up for negligent employers who don’t deliver on their responsibilities. Our attorneys make it their duty to hold these reckless employers accountable and make Texas safer for employees, one workplace at a time.
We encourage you to contact us today at (281) 801-5617 to schedule a free consultation with our team and learn how we can help get you back on your feet.