Articles Posted in OSHA Safety Regulations

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Recently, two employees died, and 30 others suffered injuries after a chemical leak at a LyondellBasell Industries (LBI) plant in Texas. The company is one of the largest plastics, chemicals, and refining companies in the world. The Texas company boasts that its chemicals have provided modern ways to enhance food and water safety worldwide.

According to a recent news report, the chemical leak involved acetic acid, which is a common food preservative used to make vinegar. The blast occurred around 7:30 in the evening when a cap burst on a line of acetic acid. Acetic acid is a clear, flammable liquid whose vapor can be corrosive to the eyes and skin. The burst released approximately 100,000 pounds of an acetic acid chemical mixture into the air. In addition to acetic acid, the burst released hydrogen iodide and acetate. The combination of these chemicals can be toxic and cause severe burns. Emergency responders and investigators are still investigating the accident; however, they do not believe that an explosion or fire caused the leak.

Chemical leaks such as the one at the Texas plant can be toxic and deadly to anyone in the vicinity. Chemical spills and leaks often occur because of negligence surrounding safety regulations, equipment, or employee training. Companies should make sure to properly train their employees and workers to ensure that they understand how to prevent spills and mitigate harm if a spill does occur. However, many companies prioritize economic gain over employee and community welfare. When this occurs, the companies may pressure workers to complete tasks in an unreasonable amount of time. This can naturally result in workers cutting corners to meet production deadlines.

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pexels-oliver-king-4067795-300x200Many Texans spend the majority of their time at work. As a result, San Antonio workplace accidents are very common, even for those with jobs that are not physically demanding. Indeed, an on-the-job accident can occur at any moment, and for almost any reason. Thus, all employees need to understand their options when it comes to recovering after a work-related accident.

There are two types of claims that a worker can bring after an on-the-job accident. The first, a workers’ compensation claim, is the more common of the two types of claims. The workers’ compensation system provides employees a simplified way to obtain compensation for a work-related accident without needing to prove that their employer was at fault. Because the workers’ compensation program is a no-fault system, these claims are typically quicker to process than traditional personal injury claims.

The main drawback of workers’ compensation claims is the availability of damages. Injured employees who successfully bring a Texas workers’ compensation claim can obtain benefits for their medical expenses, lost wages, and any decrease in earning capacity. However, unlike a personal injury case, a workers’ comp claim does not entitle an employee to non-economic damages.

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Bryan, Texas, February 8, 2020:  A  second explosion happened at one of Chesapeake Energy’s oil wells in the Eagle Ford Shale just two weeks after a Jan. 29 deadly explosion at a Chesapeake Energy oil well site in nearby Burleson County. Three men were killed and one man was left hospitalized in the Burleson incident. Bryan Maldonado, 25, and Windell Beddingfield died in what is the deadliest oilfield accident since January 2018.

Authorities are investigating the accident which occurred about 1 a.m. Saturday at a storage tank on the company’s Luther lease off Sandy Point and Old San Antonio Roads in a rural area of Brazos County about eight miles northwest of Bryan.

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Photo Credit: KWTX

(BURLESON COUNTY, Texas,  Feb 3, 2020)  Three oil field contractors have died and another is still in the hospital after an oil well blowout and the resulting fire in Burleson County, Texas.

The accident happened at a well site near Deanville, on County Road 127 and FM 60,  southwest of Bryan on January 29th.  The Chesapeake Energy owned well was undergoing major maintenance operations by contractors employed by CC Forbes and Eagle Pressure Control when the explosion occurred.

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Photo Credit: KTRK

(HOUSTON, January 27, 2020)  Two people were killed in a gas explosion in northwest Houston at a manufacturing warehouse on Friday the 25 at around 4:30 a.m. After the explosion the Houston Fire Department reported that 48 people had to be sheltered and 18 people were sent to local emergency rooms for injuries.

Officials have identified Gerardo Castorena Sr. and Frank Flores as the two victims who were killed in this fatal explosion.

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December 31, 2019 Hutto, Texas – A local man was killed in an industrial accident Monday morning at Starfire Manufacturing located in the Tradesman Park Loop in Hutto.  The Williamson County Sheriff’s department reported that a man in his 60’s was at the location to borrow a forklift. A large metal booth already situated on the forklift tipped off and landed on the man killing him.  The victim was confirmed as not an employee of the company, Starfire Manufacturing. OSHA and Workers Defense Project have been contacted but is is not known if any violations had been committed.
Industrial Accidents

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics 2018,  there were 58 industrial fatalities in Texas from contact with objects and equipment.  Of these deaths, 57 were within the private sector of manufacturing of goods, construction, or transportation.  

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Residents of West, Texas recently commemorated the one-year anniversary of a major fertilizer explosion that killed 15 people, injured 200, and destroyed homes, schools, and a nursing home. One concern of many is that despite this deadly lesson, not enough has been done to implement new safety rules that would prevent a similar catastrophe from occurring.

In April 2013, a fertilizer plant that had operated for more than 50 years on the north side of town exploded, killing first responders who arrived to contain a fire in the facility. No plant workers were killed, but that may have been merely good fortune, as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) had fined the plant previously for improper storage of anhydrous ammonia. However, OSHA’s fine was for just $30, when it could have been for as much as $1,000. It turned out that the damage from the plant explosion would amount to $100 million.

While investigators have determined that stored ammonium nitrate caused the explosion, they still do not know what caused the fire that ignited it.

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A Lubbock, Texas recycling company was recently cited by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for numerous health and safety violations. Jarvis Metals Recycling, Inc. received 24 violations total, as well as a proposed penalty of $64,400.

The health and safety violations included exposing workers to unguarded machinery and electrical, noise, chemical, and fall hazards at the facility on Olive Avenue. Specifically, the violations consisted of failure to maintain electrical components with regard to standards for safe electrical installations; failure to guard industrial machinery; failure to install a completed guard rail system; failure to train workers about hazards posed by cadmium and lead; failure to train workers in how to avoid falling and being struck by hazards while operating powered industrial trucks; failure to prevent too much exposure to noise; failure to provide a program that would help workers retain their hearing; failure to properly store cylinders containing compressed gas; and failure to label propane that had been stored properly. Of the 24, 20 were considered to be “serious” violations, which meant that there was a substantial probability of death or serious physical harm that could have resulted from the hazard, and that the employer either knew or should have known.

Meanwhile, the four “not serious” violations consisted of failure to remove damaged slings so that they would not be used; failure to issue approved respirators; failure to establish a program that aided people’s respiration; and failure to repair stairs that had been damaged. Less serious violations were those that had an effect on the worker’s job or health, but would likely not result in death or serious harm.

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Recent data from the federal Bureau of Labor and Statistics has revealed that of all of the oil field deaths throughout the United States, Texas accounts for 40% of them. That statistic covers the time period 2007 to 2012, when 663 oil field workers were killed overall. This period is significant because 2007 marked the beginning of the hydraulic fracturing — also known as “fracking” — and onshore drilling boom.

The number does not account for the workers who were seriously injured. The Houston Chronicle found that in 2012 alone, 79 workers lost limbs, 82 workers were crushed, 92 workers suffered from burns, and 675 workers suffered broken bones in accidents on the job site. One attorney representing some of the injured workers described it as “like the Wild West out there.” Meanwhile, 65 workers lost their lives in 2012 — 60% more than in 2011, and representing a 10-year high.

The reasons appear to be due to a combination of company indifference to safety and failure of federal oversight. While some well service companies at least made an effort to install safety programs, others did not implement anything. Meanwhile, federal officials have gone an estimated 22 years without implementing safety standards and procedures for onshore oil and gas drilling. By contrast, after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill offshore, in the Gulf of Mexico, improvements were made in offshore safety regulations. This included sending out more inspectors who had received special training, and tighter oil and gas safety regulations.

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Recently, Municipal District Services, LLC in Cypress, Texas was cited by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for willful violation of health and safety laws. The reason was due to a trenching collapse that led to one worker’s death and another’s injury.

The tragic accident occurred when workers were attempting to repair a water main. Municipal District Services excavated a 16-foot long, five feet wide trench through a concrete road. Two workers went into the trench to clean and cut a broken pipe. Yet roughly 10 minutes later, the south wall of the trench caved in.

In citing Municipal District Services, OSHA’s area director stated that while excavating and trenching may be hazardous, they can be performed safely through use of proper safety equipment like trench boxes. The willful violation was given for failing to give vulnerable workers cave-in protection when working in an excavated area or trench. A violation is considered to be willful when the company does so intentionally, knowingly or with voluntary disregard for the law, or with indifference to the health and safety of workers. Municipal District Service’s willful violation carried a penalty in the amount of $63,000. The company now has 15 days from receiving the OSHA citation to do one of the following: comply with the requirements, request a conference with the San Antonio office of OSHA, or contest the citation in front of the Independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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