Two people wearing hazmat suits are working in a chemical plant, with the words, worst chemical plant accidents.

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When the United States went through the Industrial Revolution, its citizens and factory owners had no idea the magnitude of change it would bring. New products, new ways of using and producing energy, and major technological advancements took the country and the world by storm. With the increased demand for energy, power plants and chemical plants were quickly constructed and required to work hard. To meet quotas, these plants often cut corners and put their workers at risk. This led to terrible chemical plant disasters.

Over the past three years, Texas has seen its fair share of chemical plant disasters which have led to a significant loss of life, horrific damages, and serious injuries. Here are three of the most recent chemical plant accidents in Texas history.

The Deer Park Plant Explosion

On the morning of March 18th, 2019 (St. Patrick’s Day), two massive tanks at the ITC Deer Park petrochemical plant caught fire. The plant, which is located about 15 miles southeast of Houston, quickly went up in flames as the fire spread to neighboring storage tanks. These flames were still ablaze days after the first fire broke out.

Due to the quick response of the plant’s workers, no one died in the accident, though 20 employees sustained serious burns and injuries due to the plant explosion. The real damage, though, was felt weeks later by the employees and the residents of Houston. The explosion caused chemicals to leak into the nearby Houston ship channel which links the city of Houston to the Gulf of Mexico. The result was mass reports of individuals suffering from breathing issues, burning throats, itchy eyes, nose bleeds, and severe headaches.

The symptoms were later connected to respiratory issues caused by exposure to the chemicals toluene, naphtha, and xylene. Prolonged exposure to these chemicals has also been linked to health problems such as brain damage, kidney issues, liver problems, and cancer. While it is still too early to see if these issues will be the result of the explosion, ITC tried to cover its bases by encouraging any individual who had suffered from the above issues to participate in the company’s compensation program. However, many personal injury attorneys warned against doing this, as participating in the program waived the individual’s right from seeking compensation in the future for medical expenses or lost wages.

The State of Texas Sues ITC

Due to the horrific nature of the explosion and its devastating impact on the city of Houston, the state of Texas filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). It stated that ITC violated the Texas Clean Air Act, as the pollution released from the fire continued to pollute the air for several days as the fires were left to burn. The Texas Attorney General stated that the company, with its long history of environmental violations, would no longer be allowed to continue as it put public health and safety at risk.

The Crosby Chemical Plant Explosion

On April 2nd, 2019, a shelter in place was called for the residents and schools of Crosby, Texas as a massive explosion shook the nearby KMCO chemical plant. The explosion, which was caused by the ignition of isobutylene gas due to regulatory oversight, caused a massive fire that quickly spread through the plant. Thousands of pounds of potentially toxic chemicals were released into the air, which resulted in the town of Crosby being placed under a shelter-in-place order throughout much of the day. The explosion led to one fatality and critically injured two other employees.

ExxonMobil Baytown Refinery Explosion

Baytown, Texas, well known for having the largest oil refinery in the United States, felt the quake of an explosion at the ExxonMobil Refinery. At 1 a.m. on December 23rd, 2021, a fire broke out in a unit that produced gasoline, which caused the unit to explode. The flames continued to burn for a total of 8-hours, fueled in part by a flammable liquid known as Naptha which was being used to dilute the crude oil.

Three employees, who were working near the unit, suffered from flash burn injuries while a fourth employee suffered a broken leg. Thankfully, no one was killed in the incident. While the fire raged on, ExxonMobil evacuated the impacted section but kept the rest of the plant operating.

While it is still unclear exactly what led to the fire breaking out, investigations, along with a lawsuit from the four employees, are still underway. The last known report of the incident included 275 residents of Baytown, Texas reporting injuries or illness from the fire that occurred at the plant. These residents claimed that the explosion led to hearing loss, breathing problems, and balance issues which have been tied back to the harmful chemicals and smoke that were released into the air.

Why Is It Important That We Recognize These Explosions?

Chemical plant explosions, unlike other work injuries, not only affect the employees but also the surrounding areas/communities. The United States has the highest number of deaths and injuries caused by plant explosions. With temperatures reaching well over 1,000 degrees during an explosion, the threat of severe injury and loss of life is serious and spreads to more than just the employees working at the plant. Because of the risk and threat to human life, it is important to study these events so that individuals can be on the lookout for injuries or illnesses that may be caused by such an event. Understanding these can help you get the compensation you deserve should a similar event ever occur in your area.

What Are Some of the Injuries That Threaten Employees During a Plant Explosion?

Employees are at serious risk for the following during a chemical plant explosion:

  • Burn injuries
  • Broken bones
  • Amputation
  • Property damage
  • Wrongful death
  • Post-traumatic stress disorders

What About the Surrounding Communities and Workers Exposed to the Chemicals?

Dangerous chemicals such as isobutylene and toluene can result in the following for both employees and residents nearby:

  • Birth defects
  • Cancer
  • Ventricular arrhythmias
  • Coma
  • Nausea
  • Respiratory issues
  • Headaches
  • Seizures
  • Chemical pneumonitis
  • Vomiting
  • Unconsciousness
  • Confusion

Have You Or a Loved One Been Injured in a Workplace Accident?

A gavel in front of a hard hat and a level.

It is important to note that not only can employees sue for damages after a chemical plant accident, but any individual who has been injured by the event can sue as well. These types of accidents can put the victims’ and their families’ lives on hold. It is essential to know your rights and whether or not you can claim compensation for a workplace injury or wrongful death. If you or a loved one has been affected by a workplace accident, contact the personal injury attorneys at the Hernandez Law Group, P.C. Juan Hernandez is one of the 2% of attorneys who is board-certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization to practice personal injury law. His expertise can help you claim the compensation you deserve. Call the Hernandez Law Group, P.C. today for more information on our services or to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.