Lessons to Be Learned From West Fertilizer Plant Explosion

After the fertilizer plant catastrophe in West, Texas, many workers in Houston are likely concerned for their safety. On April 17, an explosion occurred at the plant, killing 15 people and injuring approximately 200. Such a death in the workplace has alerted many other employers and employees to the potential hazards in their own workplaces, and hopefully, this will prevent such a tragedy from happening again.

A law professor commenting on the matter suggested that the state of Texas create its own occupational safety and health agency, similar to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The need for this, the professor argues, is shown by the fact that facilities, such as the West Fertilizer Co. plant, harbor explosive chemicals that are not properly addressed. There were approximately 270 tons of ammonium nitrate on the premises where the explosion occurred and many have asked what agencies were responsible for ensuring that these chemicals were properly stored and processed.

No state agency had a say in the matter, highlighting the potential for a state occupational agency to become relevant. The aforementioned professor said that such an organization would be relevant largely due to the leniency instilled in OSHA by groups and organizations working toward pro-business regulations. He said that due to rollbacks over the past three decades, OSHA has become incapable of investigating every facility that needs it. For example, the last time that the West fertilizer plant was inspected was nearly 30 years before the recent tragedy.

Regardless of the strength of OSHA and the relevancy of a state version of the agency, anyone who is seriously injured on the job should contact an attorney. A legal case may be able to help victims by paying for medical care or the income lost to recuperation time. If a workplace injury becomes fatal, loved ones may be capable of pursuing a wrongful death suit against an employer.

Source: Dallas Morning News, "Thomas McGarity: West explosion proves Texas needs a state version of OSHA" Thomas McGarity, May. 05, 2013


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