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TX Fertilizer Plant Explosion Sheds Light on Inadequate Federal Safety Regulations

The deadly fire and explosion at the fertilizer plant in West, Texas that killed 14 people and injured 200, has shed some light on inexplicable failures in regulation and oversight that could happen anywhere, including in Oklahoma. State and federal regulatory agencies are charged with protecting the public from risks posed by unsafe workplaces, catastrophic explosions and the release of toxic pollutants, and any failure to do so can be devastating for Oklahoma workers and residents. If you have suffered injuries on the job in Oklahoma due to unsafe working conditions, contact our workers’ compensation attorneys to discuss your eligibility for critical medical or disability benefits.


Risks Associated With Lax State, Federal Oversight

Unfortunately, the regulatory failures that played a role in the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion are not atypical. Similar failures led to the 2005 Texas City refinery explosion that killed 15 workers and injured 170, the 2008 explosion at a chemical plant in West Virginia that killed two workers, and the 2008 explosion at Georgia’s Dixie Crystal sugar refinery that killed 14 workers. In the May 7 explosion of Adair Gain Inc.’s fertilizer plant in West, Texas, the Texas State Fire Marshal’s office announced that ammonium nitrate stored at the plant is what caused the blast that left a 93-foot crater in the ground. Ammonium nitrate, when subjected to enough heat, is a combustible explosive, and the Texas fertilizer plant was reportedly holding 1,350 times the amount of ammonium nitrate that would typically trigger oversight by the Department of Homeland Security.

Dangerous Chemicals in the Workplace

Ammonium nitrate was also the cause of one of the largest industrial disasters in U.S. history when it exploded in Texas City in 1947, and was also used by Timothy McVeigh to blow up the Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people. Following the Oklahoma City bombing, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) established a program with The Fertilizer Institute to encourage people in the agriculture industry to report any thefts or suspicious behaviors around sites that housed ammonium nitrate and DHS recently proposed the Ammonium Nitrate Security Program in order to better keep track of large supplies of ammonium nitrate and avoid devastating explosions like at the West, Texas fertilizer plant.

Contact Our Experienced Attorneys for Legal Help

Despite these actions, federal oversight of facilities that store these dangerous chemicals, and other workplaces in the United States that pose a risk to worker safety remains inadequate. In fact, a recent report has indicated that there are close to 7,000 facilities that report that they pose a risk to populations greater than 1,000, with 90 that could affect more than one million people in a worst-case scenario. If you have been injured in a workplace accident in Oklahoma, or if you lost a loved one in a fatal accident on the job, consult our knowledgeable lawyers at Oklahoma Legal Center for legal help. You may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for the resulting injuries and medical expenses, which you can pursue by filing a workers’ compensation claim for compensation.

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