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Wisconsin Oil Refinery Explosion Lawyer

Refinery and Chemical Industry Accident Lawyer

The recent explosions and fires at the Husky refinery in Superior, WI and the Valero facility in Texas City remind us that, although refineries have very good safety records, refinery accidents and accident injuries are back in the news. In this article, the refinery accident injury lawyer at the Doan Law Firm will discuss the causes of such accidents and the types of injuries that a worker may sustain after these accidents.

Causes of refinery explosions and fires

There are literally hundreds of possible causes of refinery explosions and fires. Analysis of mandatory accident reports filed with the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) following refinery accidents reveals that the causes of such accidents can be usually be assigned to one of three general categories.

Contaminated (“dirty”) chemicals

Chemicals used in the manufacturing process must be as free as possible of any contamination or impurities. In fact, many explosions and/or fires are caused by “runaway” chemical reactions at some stage of normal production processes. If “dirty” chemicals cause an industrial accident, both the plant operator and the supplier of such chemicals can be held liable for any damages that may occur.

Inadequate or improper maintenance

Because they routinely use systems that operate at extreme temperatures and pressures, refineries and chemical plants must constantly monitor the status of their manufacturing systems. This includes routine inspections and regular preventive maintenance. Should an operator fail to perform these actions, it may be seen as evidence of negligence and expose the operator to liability in the event of an accident.

Violations of established safety policies

Every refinery and chemical plant must follow the guidelines set forth by OSHA and other regulatory agencies. These guidelines specify the minimum standards that refinery and plant operators are required to follow when implementing both company-wide and site-specific workplace safety policies. Each plant operator is free to impose standards that are stricter than those set forth by government regulatory agencies. Failure to comply with all relevant safety standards places the plant’s operator at risk of being held liable for the consequences of explosions and/or fires.

Types of injuries in refinery accidents

If there are hundreds of causes of refinery/chemical plant accidents, there are thousands of injuries that can result from such accidents. For our purposes, we can place these injuries into general categories.

Burns

Burn injuries are a frequently occur in refinery and chemical plant accidents. These injuries can be of one or more types:

  • Thermal burns are those that are caused by heat from a fire or by exposure to hot gasses such as steam.
  • Chemical burns occur when the skin is exposed to contact with caustic substances such as strong acids or alkalines.
  • Electrical burns are caused by the passage of an electrical current through the body. Unlike other types of burns that primarily affect the skin, electrical burns often cause damage to deeper body organs and structures such as muscle, tendons, and bones. Electrical burns can be very difficult to treat and may require months of rehabilitation before an injured worker can return to work.

Orthopedic injuries

Injuries to bones, such as fractures and dislocations, are commonly seen with explosions and after an employee falls from heights.

Brain and spinal injuries

Injuries to the central nervous system are frequently due to direct trauma such as explosions, motorized vehicle accidents or falls. Injuries of this type frequently lead to long term disability or even death.

Hazardous substance exposure

Exposure to hazardous substances can be either acute (causing immediate injury) or chronic (repeated exposure over time, with symptoms appearing some time later). Due to the fact that these substances can produce a variety of symptoms, injuries of this type may be difficult to diagnose.

Chronic exposure injuries

These injuries occur when a worker is exposed to relatively small amounts of toxic substances over a long period of time. Although the exposure may not cause symptoms at the time, repeated exposure can cause a buildup of the toxin over time and may not cause symptoms until years later. In addition to on-the-job exposure injuries involving workers, chronic exposure injuries may also occur in those residents of areas that are downwind or downstream of a refinery or some similar operation.

Contact a refinery accident injury lawyer to protect your rights

Although they are more “newsworthy” and thus attract the attention of the national media, major industrial accidents such as Thursday’s explosion and fire at Husky’s Superior refinery or last week’s explosion at Valero’s Texas City facility are relatively rare. In fact, most fatal accidents at refineries and chemical plants are caused by employee falls or crush injuries that occur while working with heavy equipment.

Regardless of the causes and types of injuries, workers who have been injured in a refinery accident should speak with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after their accident. One such refinery accident lawyer can be contacted at the Doan Law Firm, a nationwide personal injury law practice.

When you speak with our refinery accident lawyer, your initial consultation is always free and without obligation. Should you decide to have our firm represent you, we are willing to assume responsibility for all aspects of preparing your case for trial in exchange for a percentage of the final settlement that we will win for you.

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