Chemical plant and refinery accidents are unfortunately all too common. Every year, hundreds of plant and refinery workers suffer serious injuries, face long-term health problems, or even die because of the plant operator’s negligence or oversight. For the injured worker and their family, accidents can wreak physical, financial, emotional havoc.
How Attorneys Investigate Chemical Plant and Refinery Accidents
Understanding the factors that caused the accident at a chemical plant or refinery is essential to receiving just compensation for any injuries you’ve suffered. Knowledgeable professionals must conduct a comprehensive investigation to piece together exactly what went wrong.
As personal injury lawyers, we investigate chemical plant and refinery accidents by taking several actions.
Hire Quality Chemical Plant and Refinery Accident Experts
First, we hire experts who have extensive experience in chemical plant or refinery accidents and who have investigated similar accidents. An expert will analyze the evidence found at the accident site and in any related documents, like Safety Data Sheets (SDS), and other data. Based on these findings, they can then offer an opinion as to how and why the accident occurred. The expert opinion is often crucial in establishing the liability of a defendant in a personal injury claim.
Examine Government Reports of Chemical Plant and Refinery Accident
We also review the investigations performed by government officials. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board, for example, usually performs its own exhaustive inquiry when there’s been an accident or a fire at a chemical plant, producing reports of a 100 pages or more. We painstakingly review any relevant government report and assess it in light of the information we’ve received from the experts.
Interview Key Players and Witnesses
Finally, we interview the owners and operators of the plants and any witnesses to the accident. Their insights will provide critical information about potential safety violations and the actions of key players on the day of the accident.
Once we have all of this information, we’ll determine which parties, if any, are liable for the chemical plant accident claim. If it makes sense to move the claim against an owner, operator, or third-party, we will work hard to build a compelling case with the most persuasive evidence possible.
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Causes of Chemical Plant and Refinery Accidents
Chemical plants and refineries are can be very dangerous environments. The inevitable presence of heavy machinery and equipment, and flammable, explosive, or otherwise hazardous substances hold the potential for disaster and massive injuries. For this reason, the Occupational and Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has established numerous rules that plant and refinery operators must follow to ensure safety. Unfortunately, when operators fail to uphold their responsibilities, accidents happen, and employees get injured.
Accidents may arise from a number of factors, including:
- Inadequate training of employees. Plant and refinery operators have a responsibility to ensure that all employees are well trained in their duties and applicable safety protocols. Such training should include how to operate, handle, or comport one’s self hazardous materials or equipment. If an operator offers insufficient training–or none at all–all employees are put at risk.
- Poor maintenance of equipment. Given the abundance of hazards in the plant or refinery, plant operators must ensure that workers keep equipment and the site itself in good condition. Workers can and do get injured when operators compel them to use old, worn-out, rusted, or otherwise unreliable equipment. Management has a responsibility to review, repair, or replace inadequate equipment, as needed.
- Failure to store or maintain hazardous materials properly. OSHA has precise guidelines on how to store hazardous materials. Plant operators must institute protocols for storing such materials as well as a procedure for verifying that employees are following these safety protocols.
- Faulty equipment. Sometimes plant and refinery accidents occur due to the actions of third parties. The manufacturer of the machinery or equipment may produce defective or badly designed products that result in injuries. In such cases, these third parties should be held responsible.
- Failure to provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Plant operators have a responsibility to provide PPE for workers. Such safety gear may include hard hats, reflective vests, flame-resistant ARC gear, protective eyewear, safety gloves, impact protection gear, steel-toed boots.
- Noncompliance with state or federal laws. Federal law and each state have safety laws with which plant operators must comply. Failure to follow these laws can result in serious injuries–for which plant operators will be liable.
Injuries Arising from Chemical Plant and Refinery Accidents
When many people think of chemical plant and refinery accidents, they picture the massive ones: explosions, fires or being crushed by heavy equipment. But many devastating injuries arise from more understated incidents as well, including slip and falls, getting struck by a falling object, or exposure to hazardous chemicals or materials.
The injuries arising from these incidents can include:
- Acute respiratory distress syndrome
- Broken bones
- Traumatic brain injury
- Lung damage
- Spinal cord/nerve injuries
- Muscular injuries
- Eyesight or hearing loss
- Permanent disfigurement
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
It can take weeks, months, or even years to recover from these injuries. Some workers will never fully recover.
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Steps to Take Following a Chemical Plant or Refinery Accident
If you’ve been in a chemical plant or refinery accident, take the following steps immediately to preserve your health and potential compensation claim.
- Get medical help immediately. If you experienced an accident at a plant or refinery, don’t assume you’re fine and brush off the idea of seeing a doctor. Some injuries manifest days or even weeks after the accident.
- Take notes. Try to remember and record all that you can about the accident while it is still fresh in your mind. Write out what happened, including details such as where you were, the names of potential witnesses, sounds you heard before the accident, and even the weather of that particular day. These notes will be useful to your personal injury lawyer if you pursue a compensation claim.
- Speak to a personal injury lawyer. An experienced plant or refinery accident lawyer can help you determine whether you qualify for a compensation claim. If you have a case, a good lawyer will investigate exactly what happened that day and use this information to help you get the compensation you deserve.
Our plant and refinery accident attorneys fight on injured workers or their families’ behalf and to hold those responsible for the accident accountable. If you or a loved one has suffered injuries following a chemical plant or refinery accident, contact us today. We are ready to assess your claim and help you seek compensation.
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