Defective Equipment Preventable Plant Accidents Caused by Equipment Defects

Defective Equipment in Oil Refineries

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One of the most common causes of plant accidents is defective equipment. Oil refineries are unique and need special maintenance in order to avoid accidents. Oil refineries function for the purpose of processing crude oil to turn it into different forms. This process is known as fractional distillation. The refining process involves heating the oil to extremely high temperatures, as high as 400 degrees Celsius, in order to distill and separate the different forms of oil. This process involves numerous pieces of vital machinery that, if poorly maintained, can cause serious accidents.

The vast machinery of an oil refinery includes:

  • Pipelines
  • Boilers
  • Storage tanks
  • Treatment tanks
  • Heaters
  • Pumps
  • ...and more.

Every part has to be regularly inspected, repaired, or replaced. Many factories today have access to safer technology, but continue to depend on equipment that is well past its replacement due date. Each part depends on the whole to function. When parts are defective, it creates catastrophic consequences.

One report from the EU revealed that of 137 severe refinery incidents in the last 30 years, 1 in 5 were caused by unmaintained equipment that corroded and failed. Despite increased refinery knowledge and safety technology, defective equipment remains the leading factor in major plant accidents across the nation.

Malfunctioning Equipment in Plants & Refineries

When equipment malfunctions, it can cause serious injuries depending on how integral the malfunctioning machine was to the operation. At oil refineries, an equipment malfunction is cause for serious concern, which is exactly why employees should be properly trained for how to handle these types of malfunctions so that they do not escalate.

Oil refineries are made up of many units that need to be in place for the plant to function properly, such as:

  • Desalter units
  • Alkylation unit
  • Coking units

Accidents in the past examined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA) have shown that the cause of accident was malfunctioning equipment. It may be difficult to find the cause of an accident in the event that major damage was done to the oil refinery plant, but a thorough investigation usually produces a cause.

A recent example of a plant explosion took place at the Kleen Energy Systems plant in Connecticut. After an OHSA investigation, more than 400 safety violations were found. This goes to show that accidents are often avoidable and can be prevented by staying on the watch for malfunctioning equipment.

The Responsibility of Plant Owners & Managers

Employers are responsible for fostering a safe working atmosphere for all employees. Even if the employer is not present at the time of the accident, they may be found at fault for an accident at their oil refinery. People are employed at oil refineries for the sole purpose of investigating equipment in order to ensure that it is in good working order. When they fail to carry out their job duties effectively, workers’ lives are put in danger, and resulting injuries can be attributed to their negligence. If you were involved in an oil refinery accident that was caused by defective equipment, don't assume it was unavoidable. Statistically speaking, your accident was not only preventable—someone may have known that it was likely to happen. Your employer, equipment manufacturer, or the plant owner may very well be found responsible for the equipment malfunction, allowing you to file a claim.

You Can Trust Our Personal Injury Attorney to Help You

At Arnold & Itkin, we have ample experience in protecting the rights of injury victims. We are proud to say that we have represented oil refinery workers and their families in the past and obtained for them substantial recoveries—in fact, we have secured billions of dollars on behalf of our clients. You can trust in our firm to help you.

If you were not the cause of your injuries, you shouldn't be the one paying for the consequences. Get a free consultation by speaking with a competent Houston plant accident attorney from our firm today.

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