Industrial workers are the backbone of the American economy. They manufacture many of the nation’s most important goods and exports. The industrial plants they work in are testament to American ingenuity and hard work. However, their complexity can lead to catastrophic disaster if safety protocols are not strictly adhered to or short cuts are taken in order to increase capacity.
Timeline of Recent Industrial Disasters
Below are some of the most catastrophic industrial disasters in the last 25 years.
- July 1990 – An explosion at a chemical plant in Channelview, Texas decimated an area roughly the size of a city block. The explosion killed all 17 people in the area.
- May 1991 – Blast could be heard from over 8 miles away when a Louisiana chemical plant exploded. 8 plant workers were killed and 120 others from the plant or surrounding community were injured in the blast.
- September 1991 – When a chicken processing plant in North Carolina caught fire, workers rushed to the emergency exits to escape. However, management had left the doors locked, trapping the workers inside the burning plant. 25 workers were killed in the fire.
- September 1998 – A grain storage facility in Kansas suffered a series of dust explosions that killed 7 workers.
- March 2005 – Over 100 people were injured and 15 workers were killed when the BP Refinery in Texas City exploded. Investigations into the accident concluded that cost-cutting, deferred maintenance, and a general disregard for process safety were leading contributors to the explosion.
- September 2008 – An explosion at an Imperial Sugar refinery in Georgia resulted in the death of 13 workers and caused injury to over 40 others. Investigations determined that the explosion was caused by the continuous release of sugar from inadequate dust collection and sugar handling equipment.
- February 2010 – An explosion at a power plant in Connecticut killed 5 workers and injured over 2 dozen others. The plant was still under construction at the time of the explosion. It was believed to be caused by a propane heater or other open-flame device.
- April 2010 – 29 nine of the 31 coal miners working in a West Virginia mine were killed in a coal dust explosion.
- April 2010 – The Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico suffered a blowout that resulted in an explosion that killed 11 workers. The explosion resulted in a massive oil spill that has been called the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history.
- April 2013 – A massive explosion at the West Fertilizer Company just outside of Waco, Texas killed 14 people, injured over 160 others, and damaged or destroyed 150 buildings in the radius of the blast.
The sad truth is that these tragic disasters could have been prevented. Companies that operate industrial plants and refineries have a duty to ensure they are safe for its workers and the surrounding community.