fire is burning at the ExxonMobil Olefins Plant

Worst Industrial Accidents in Texas

Legal AssistantPersonal Injury Law, Regulatory Law

They say everything’s bigger in Texas – and with good reason. The Lone Star state is the second-largest in the country after Alaska, and with a resident population of roughly 29 million, it also happens to be the second most populous state in the nation.

Boasting a GDP of $1.7 trillion, Texas has one of the most advanced economies in the United States and is the single largest exporter of goods in the country. On a global scale, the Texas economy ranks the 10th largest in the world.

With an economy of that magnitude, the industries operating within the state are equally as massive. As a result, when accidents occur, the workers bear the brunt of it all. This article explores the worst industrial accidents of all time in Texas.

Main Causes of Industrial Accidents

The term “industrial accident” generally refers to an accident that an industrial employee suffers in the course of performing their day-to-day tasks. It also refers to an accident that occurs in an industrial company, affecting the people working and living within a large geographic zone.

The major cause of industrial accidents is negligence. In Texas law, an injured party can pursue monetary compensation (damages) resulting from the negligence of another party. Plaintiffs in personal injury claims in Texas have to demonstrate five key elements to prove negligence.

  • Duty – The plaintiff will have to demonstrate that the defendant was obligated to act (or not act) in a particular manner.
  • Breach of duty – The defendant failed in their responsibility to act (or not act) in the manner in question.
  • Cause in fact – The injury suffered by the plaintiff was the direct result of the defendant’s breach of duty.
  • Proximate cause – This addresses the question of whether a “reasonable person” would find the breach of duty obvious.
  • Damages – The plaintiff has to provide factual proof of the hardship they suffered as a result of the injuries and the compensation they are entitled to.

Once an injured party is able to establish each of these five elements, the Texas civil justice system will be able to award damages to the plaintiff in a lawsuit. Keep in mind that the Lone Star state adopts a modified comparative fault system. According to this standard, the courts apportion fault proportionally when awarding damages to the victim.

Worst Industrial Accidents in Texas

Firefighters battle blaze after explosion at the ExxonMobil Baytown Olefins chemical plant

With that brief background in mind, here’s an overview of some of the deadliest industrial disasters in the Lone Star state.

The Texas Chemical Plant Accident at LyondellBasell La Porte

One of the most recent chemical plant accidents occurred in July 2021 at LyondellBasell in La Porte, killing two people and leaving 42 others injured. According to the company chemical plant operator and other site officials, the accident was due to a leak that released approximately 100,000 pounds of acetic acid into the atmosphere.

While officials are yet to identify the root cause of the Texas chemical plant leak, a lawsuit filed by one of the victims alleges that the company was made aware of the leak earlier in the day but failed to take the appropriate steps to have it sealed before the fateful incident later that night.

In another suit, one of the victims cited the company’s failure to properly train the workers on safety procedures, particularly those stationed in the chemical plant zone. It also listed the failure to provide a safe working environment and the lack of adequate safety equipment as contributory causes of the industrial accident.

The injuries sustained by the victims include physical bodily harm as they scampered to safety and respiratory injuries from inhaling the toxic fumes emanating from the Texas chemical plant leak.

The Texas City Disaster

In April 1947, a ship containing 2,300 tons of ammonium nitrate caught fire, causing one of the biggest non-nuclear explosions in the country’s history. Five hundred eighty-one people lost their lives in the accident, with as many as 4,000 others suffering grievous injuries. One hundred thirteen victims were marked “missing,” and their remains were never found.

Eight thousand four hundred eighty-five victims directly and indirectly linked to the Texas City Disaster filed a class-action suit against the US government for compensation.

The Phillips Disaster

The phillips disaster 1989

In October 1989, several explosions were witnessed at the Houston Chemical Complex facility located close to the Houston Ship Channel in Pasadena, Texas. The fire that resulted from the initial blast took 10 hours to put out. Unfortunately, 23 employees were killed in the explosion, with 314 others suffering injuries ranging from minor to major.

Investigations into the incident revealed that the detonations occurred when highly flammable process gases were released into the atmosphere from one of the reactors in the plant. The reactors were used in the production of high-density polyethylene, a key ingredient in the manufacture of plastic containers. Phillips paid a $4 million fine for OSHA-related violations.

The Texas City Refinery Explosion

In March 2005, an explosion occurred at the Texas City Refinery, resulting in 15 fatalities and 170+ injuries. The blast that took place in the state’s second-largest refinery was attributed to a host of organizational shortcomings and a multitude of technical failures.

The poor communication between the refinery employees, alongside the apparent lack of supervision and training, were found to be the root causes of the deadly explosion.

The West Fertilizer Plant Blast

In April 2013, ammonium nitrate in storage at the West Fertilizer Company plant caught fire and exploded, killing 15 people and injuring 160 others. The explosion, which occurred in West, Texas, damaged and destroyed more than 150 buildings in the area. It later emerged that OSHA officials had last inspected the fertilizer plant in 1985.

If you get injured in an industrial accident in Texas, you can file for workers’ compensation. According to the Texas Labor Code, you would be entitled to income, medical, vocational rehabilitation, and death benefits to your next of kin.

If you are not covered under workers’ compensation, ensure you consult with an experienced industrial accident lawyer to get the compensation you deserve.

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