An explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, on April 17, 2013, killed 14 people, injured more than 250 neighboring residents and emergency responders, and destroyed more than 150 buildings. Twelve of the deceased were volunteer firefighters who responded to the explosion.
The explosion generated considerable media coverage, including graphic images on television news. After the fact, it raised questions about public safety and disaster preparedness, and led to public hearings by governmental entities. Among other things, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, an independent federal government agency that investigates industrial chemical accidents, sent a film crew to the community May 3, 2013, to document the level of damage from the explosion. The board regularly posts news releases on its website of investigations into chemical explosions, although they do not issue citations or fines. Their goal is to offer safety recommendations to plants, industry organizations, labor groups and regulatory agencies.
Chemical plants tend to be located in industrial areas near lower-income neighborhoods. Besides posing risks to nearby residents, they subject their employees to potential hazards, as well. If you live in an areas where a chemical plant is located, or work at the chemical plant itself, you may be able to take some steps to reduce risk to yourself and your family. Some of those steps include the following:
- Learn about your community’s risk from major chemical emergencies. Contact an agency for information on chemical plants and transportation routes for hazardous materials in your area.
- Find out evacuation plans for your workplace and your children’s schools.
- Develop an evacuation plan of your own, for your home and workplace.
- Serve on a safety committee so you can stay up to date on recent legislation and regulations.
- Learn about industry and community warning signals of impending dangers.
- If an explosion happens at work or near your neighborhood, go to the nearest safety zone, such as a shelter.
- Seek medical attention immediately for injuries or exposure to chemicals.
If you or someone you know has been injured or died due to chemical exposure or explosion, several factors will come into play determining who was at fault, what cause the accident, and how it could have been prevented. While you may want to do the investigation yon your own, consulting with a personal injury attorney who knows how to deal with multiple agencies is the best place to start.