On August 12, 2016, several workers were injured in an explosion at the Sunoco Logistics terminal in Nederland, Texas in what appears to be an eerily similar incident to a case I handled against a Beaumont refinery in 2013. Early indications are that the explosion was started by welders operating near flammable hydrocarbons. Multiple news sources are also reporting that the injured workers were employed by L-Con, Inc., a construction management contractor.
In April of 2013, at a refinery in Beaumont, an explosion was set off by an almost identical set of circumstances. Specifically, a worker was attempting to remove bolts from a structure inside the refinery with a welding torch when flammable hydrocarbons ignited an explosion.
I was the first to file lawsuit on behalf of workers that were injured in that 2013 Beaumont refinery explosion incident. And immediately after being hired by the families of the injured workers, I went to the Jefferson County courthouse and got a temporary restraining order to ensure that the refinery preserved all necessary evidence. This is exactly what will need to be done for the families of the workers injured in the Sunoco Logistics explosion.
Our investigation in the 2013 Beaumont refinery explosion exposed that the welder was working under a “hot work permit” from the refinery owner.
Why Issuing Hot Work Permits Can Put Workers At Risk
The fact is: none of the contract workers hurt in this Sunoco Logistics incident should have been permitted to operate welding torches unless and until Sunoco made sure that the work location had “been cleaned so thoroughly as to make absolutely certain that there were no flammable materials present.”
This rule is quoted directly from the OSHA standards and is repeatedly stated in multiple industry regulatory materials. Still, because proper isolation of hot work areas and thorough removal of hydrocarbons often takes time, companies have been found to rush to issue hot work permits to continue job progress. Unfortunately, this presents a substantial safety risk to welders and workers nearby.
Catastrophic industrial accidents are happening at an alarming rate in Jefferson County. Earlier this year, on May 11, 2016, I was hired to represent the family of a contract worker who was killed at the Exxon Refinery in Beaumont, Texas when a suspended pipe broke and fell on his head and neck area while he worked. This incident was largely covered by all of the same local media sources that are now covering the Sunoco Logistics incident. When will it stop?
How to put an end to Unsafe Shortcuts that Cause Injuries at Refineries
The only way to ensure that these events don’t continue to happen is to hold this industry accountable for the irreparable harm families endure as a result of safety shortcuts and rush-issued “hot work permits.”
When an experienced attorney starts working on a refinery explosion case, the first step is to ensure that the critical evidence is preserved through a restraining order as we’ve done in both of the last major industrial accidents in the Jefferson County area.
If you have been hurt in a refinery accident, talk to us right away to get all of your questions answered, find out your legal rights, and get the help you need. Call us at 877-724-7800 or fill out a contact form.
Photo Credit, Kim Brent, Beaumont Enterprise