FAQs: Refinery Explosion Death Lawyer

Q: Is there any other government or independent organization, other than OSHA, that investigates refinery explosions and accidents when there are serious injuries or fatalities involved?

A: The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) is an organization independent of OSHA that investigates deadly accidents and explosions in refineries across the U.S. and oil rigs in the coastal waters. After the fatal 2005 BP explosion in Texas City, the CSB performed an extensive investigation that included reviewing OSHA reports and documents. They determined the exact cause and circumstances of the incident and also provided recommendations for change and a safer work place at the refinery. The CSB has no legal or other authoritative power, but it works to make the refinery industry safer for everybody.

Q: Does OSHA really have authority over refineries when there are accidents or workers killed and injured in explosions?

A: Yes, they set and enforce the federal regulations for safety in all places of public and private employment. However, it seems in reality that their enforcement is limited to reports and fines, which some companies continue to operate with an unsafe work environment while paying those fines. Many of the worst accidents were preventable and a result of safety hazards that had been fined by OSHA previous to the incident. One of the most recent examples of this was the BP oil refinery explosion that killed 15 sub-contractors. BP was fined $21 million dollars by OSHA for the safety violations that led to the fatal accident.

Q: What are the common causes of refinery explosions that result in such tragic deaths?

A: The most common causes of deadly explosions in the past three decades have occurred during the start-up of equipment that had been shut-down for routine maintenance. Compressors and co-generators seem to be the most dangerous, or most prone to incident, for these start-ups and shut-downs.

Q: I live near an oil refinery that had a horrible explosion and fire that killed some of its workers. The smell for the week following the explosion seemed worse than the usual smell. I think it has caused respiratory problems for my family; can I sue the refinery that had the explosion?

A: This really starts getting into environmental laws and regulations. Most refineries have claimed that there was no danger to the surrounding communities in the aftermath of these deadly explosions. If your family has been examined and treated by your family doctor for these respiratory problems, you may want to consult with an attorney to see if you have a personal injury case.

Q: My brother was killed in a small oil refinery explosion in California. I remember him complaining about the unsafe working conditions; can his wife sue for damages that weren't covered by the life insurance policy?

A: If the refinery was negligent in any way, his wife is entitled to recover financial loss and support of the family, in addition to pain and suffering, and loss of companionship, and guidance for any children they had. The life insurance policy is separate from the refinery incident that caused your brother's death. She should contact an attorney immediately to go over the details of the accident and help protect her rights of survivorship.

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