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Two Years After Deadly Texas Plant Explosion New Laws Are Being Considered

In April 2013, 15 people died and more than 160 people suffered injuries as a result of an explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. in West, Texas. According to a report by the Insurance Council of Texas, the explosion left a crater 90 feet wide and 10 feet deep and caused more than $100 million in property damages. In addition, more than 200 nearby homes were either destroyed or suffered damage.

The fire at the plant reportedly began in the plant’s seed room, which abutted an ammonium nitrate storage bin. The storage area contained 150 tons of chemicals. It was estimated that between 28 and 34 tons of the chemicals exploded. The force of the explosion was comparable to 15,000 to 20,000 pounds of dynamite exploding. An investigation conducted by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board found that the fire and explosion could have been prevented. The Board placed blame on federal, state and local regulatory agencies for “failing to identify a serious hazard and correct it.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration also conducted an investigation and cited the West Fertilizer Company for 24 serious safety violations. The citations were issued for a variety of serious safety violations, including unsafe handling and storage of anhydrous ammonia and ammonium nitrate. Through its investigation, OSHA determined that the company poorly labeled the ammonia storage tanks and failed to properly test replacement hoses for pressure. The owner had to pay $118,300 in fines.

2 Years Later New Laws Being Considered
Two years after the explosion in West, Texas, there still are no new laws governing how businesses store chemicals, including ammonium nitrate. According to state officials, only a few businesses that sell chemicals store them in fireproof buildings, despite recommendations from experts. With the legislative session coming to an end in June, there are two different bills focused on improving the safety of ammonium nitrate storage.

The first bill, which has been proposed by Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, would provide the State Fire Marshal’s Office with rule-making authority to determine how to properly store and handle ammonium nitrate. This could possibly include requiring fireproof storage. The second bill, proposed by Rep. Kyle Kacal, R-College Station, would require that fertilizer be stored more than 30 feet from combustible material, a standard that is adopted from the Office of the State Chemist.

Pickett believes that if change does not come in this session then “we won’t be addressing it until we have another explosion. It won’t be a problem until it is.” According to a committee staff member, both bills will likely be heard soon, but there is no specific date for a hearing.

Injured in at a Plant? Contact Zehl & Associates’ Texas Plant Explosion Attorney
If you have suffered an injury in a work-related accident at a plant or refinery, Zehl & Associates’ experienced Texas plant and refinery accident attorneys can help you understand your legal rights and recourse. Our Texas plant and refinery accident attorneys have extensive experience helping victims obtain compensation for their injuries.

Contact Zehl & Associates’ Texas plant and refinery accident attorneys today for a free initial consultation and case evaluation. Call us today at 1-888-603-3636 to find out how we can help you protect your rights.