Texas City Refinery Explosion Revisited

Back in 2005, British Petroleum’s refinery in Texas City, Texas caught fire and exploded. The explosion ended up killing 15 employees and injuring more than 180.  Several studies were completed after the explosion and companies have learned much from them.

What Caused the Fire?

The short answer is operator error. However, it was later determined the equipment in the refinery was not maintained to required standards. Heavy and light gasolines were being separated. When the operator occurred, the pressure release system failed allowing the liquids to spill out onto open ground. The liquids quickly became a vapor cloud which ignited and caused the initial explosion.

Why Were There So Many Injuries?

Though the initial blast was dangerous, there were many non-essential buildings close to the refinery. These buildings, which were trailers and tents, housed employees doing jobs outside the actual refinery. It was determined that if the buildings were further away from the refinery, the injury count would have been much lower.

Could it have been Prevented?

The system that failed allowing the liquids to spill out was known to be faulty. If BP had replaced the faulty system, this disaster could have been diverted entirely. Outside of the faulty system, many of the injuries could have been prevented if a corporate safety program had been in place. Numerous systems that needed maintenance, inspections were behind schedule, employees weren’t trained to properly handle emergencies, and there were failing in health and safety assessments.

Tragedies like these have brought about a rise in safety awareness in factories and refineries. Today, more companies than ever are focusing on safety in the workplace. Systems are maintained better, employees are trained better, and emergency response plans have been put into place including evacuation plans and rescue staffing. It is our hope that keeping employee safety a top priority, disasters like this will one day be a thing of the past. For more information on rescue staffing, contact them at http://www.CodeRedSafety.com.

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