The industrial revolution brought on rapid change for the United States. New laws had to be made to protect workers by improving working conditions and establishing workers’ rights. Despite these efforts, terrible industrial accidents still happen every day.
Industrial accidents are usually catastrophic. They often have a permanent effect on workers, the environment, and surrounding people. This article takes a look at the four worst industrial accidents: the T.A. Gillespie Company Plant explosion, the Texas City Refinery explosion, The Great Molasses Flood, and the West Fertilizer Plant explosion.
T.A. Gillespie Company Shell Loading Plant Explosion
On October 4, 1918, in Sayreville, New Jersey, everything appeared to be going smoothly at the largest munitions factory in the world. T.A. Gillespie Shell Loading Plant was known around the world for its superior military shells. In fact, this plant was responsible for providing 10% of the shells used by the American forces at the European Front during World War I.
As evening approached on that chilly October day, molten TNT was being poured into 153m shells to complete one of the final product shipments for the day. The heat from the TNT ignited one of the shells, resulting in a fire that engulfed nearby freight cars loaded with hundreds of other shells. The fire caused the shells to explode, leading to more fires and explosions which lasted over a span of two days.
More than 30 million pounds of explosives went off between October 4 and October 6 of 1918, resulting in 300 buildings – including nearby homes – to become level. The total cost of damages was $18 million, and a hundred people were killed, leading this to be one of the worst industrial disasters in United States history.
Texas City Refinery Explosion
After lunchtime on March 23, 2005, in Texas City, BP workers were returning to work after their lunch break. As the third-largest oil refinery in the United States, BP’s Texas City refinery was responsible for 3% of the nation’s gas supply, processing 433,000 barrels of crude oil per day.
A malfunction with several level indicators caused a knockout drum to overfill, resulting in hydrocarbons concentrated at ground level to be dispersed throughout the area. BP officials called for all the machines to be turned off, but the gears of disaster were already set in motion. An explosion caused by flammable gas entering the engine of a nearby diesel truck resulted in 15 deaths and 100 injuries. The damages were extensive and BP ended up paying millions in compensation to its employees after accepting fault for failing to follow proper safety precautions.
The Great Molasses Flood
In 1919, there was a high demand for molasses in the United States. Industrialists realized that this type of alcohol could be useful in a number of different industries, including the fuel industry.
In January of that year, a large tank carrying 2 million gallons of molasses was making its way through Boston, Massachusetts. The decreasing temperatures outside caused the metal to weaken, the pressure to build up, and the container to burst. This sent a tidal wave of molasses into the streets, crushing buildings and trapping horses and people. Due to the cool temperatures, the molasses failed to spread out as it normally would, causing it to remain thick. The people trapped in the molasses died of asphyxiation or were crushed from the weight of the liquid and the debris. The total death count came to 21, with 150 people reported being injured from the event.
West Fertilizer Plant Explosion
The most recent major industrial disaster happened on April 17, 2013, in West, Texas. Late in the evening, a fire was reported in the plant. Twenty minutes after the call had been placed, the plant exploded as the flames came in contact with the flammable chemicals inside the plant. The resulting explosion went off with the force of 8-10 tons of TNT and left a crater that was 93 ft in diameter.
The explosion spread, destroying 60-80 nearby homes and a 50-unit apartment building. Another 50-75 homes were damaged, as well as a middle school, nearby nursing home, and the West Volunteer Ambulance Station. 15 people were killed in the explosion and another 150 people were injured. The cause of the fire is still unknown, though some authorities suspect that it was arson.
When disaster strikes at your work due to an accident, you may be eligible for compensation for damages and medical expenses. You shouldn’t have to face the aftermath of a work-related accident alone; contact the Dallas work injury attorneys at Hernandez Law Group, P.C. Juan Hernandez has board-certification to practice personal injury law – which only 2% of Texas attorneys have – and he has years of experience litigating work injury cases. Contact us to speak with one of our compassionate personal injury attorneys.