Disaster is never too far off even with today’s levels of safety and prevention. From load arrestors to piles of lumbar support pillows, workplaces do everything they can to make sure the chance of a serious accident is virtually neutralized. Unfortunately, even with such high levels of precaution, disaster can strike at any time. While all could have been avoided, it seems the reason tragedy struck was because of the failings of upper management to take responsibility for ensuring the safety of their workers.
Texas City Refinery Explosion (2005)
BP is no stranger when it comes to causing some of the worst modern catastrophes the world has ever seen. As the third largest refinery in the entire United States, the Texas City Refinery was an impressive feat of engineering. That being said, it wasn’t impressive enough to prevent the explosion. On that fateful March day, gasoline was forced into a blow down drum, resulting in pressure bursting that section and gasoline spilling to the floor. Accumulating above it was a highly flammable cloud that ignited when an employee started their pickup truck. The resulting explosion killed 15 workers and injured over 170 others. In the end, the court found BP guilty of not distinguishing between process safety and occupational safety in addition to being too cheap to buy a newer, safer blow down system that would have prevented the tragedy outright.
Imperial Sugar Refinery Explosion (2008)
Since 2003, the US had been working hard to reform safety standards to prevent further dust explosions that had been ravaging the country. However, many deemed this effort as inadequate. Then, on the morning of February 7, an old sugar refinery constructed of unsafe material and running with antiquated machinery over three decades old caught fire, leading to the surrounding sugar dust exploding in a blast that killed 13 and severely burned 42 others. Since the destruction of the factory, the entire local economy has been in a slump due to how much money the sugar factory brought in. According to Imperial, there are plans to rebuild.
West Fertilizer Co. Explosion (2013)
With an explosion large enough to obliterate a small Texas town, killing 14 people and injuring 160, the West Fertilizer Co. explosion remains one of the most devastating preventable tragedies to date. After investigations were performed, it was discovered that the company had been storing over 1,350 times the amount of ammonium nitrate than it should have ever had in the first place. Because this product has to be reported to the Department of Homeland Security but wasn’t, this meant the company knew they had too much and willfully hid the amount they had. The DHS was then not able to monitor the plant and help return it to safe levels. Unfortunately for the employees and the people surrounding the plant, this time bomb inevitably hit zero, resulting in the massive amount of destruction that was unleashed on that fateful April day.