Austin Injury Attorney Ponders Ramifications of Disaster in West
West Fertilizer Company, in a small Texas town also called West, was founded in 1962 and has supplied chemicals to farmers in the area ever since. The facility, which stores 240 tons of ammonium nitrate and 50 tons of anhydrous ammonia on its premises, was last inspected by OSHA in 1985, when the company was cited for improper storage methods and fined $30.
Fast forward to 2013: fifteen people were killed and at least 262 people injured in a massive explosion at the fertilizer plant. Schools, businesses and houses were destroyed.
Most of the town was simply wiped off the face of the Earth, but it was an utterly preventable disaster.
A new bill was proposed last month that seeks to prevent further disasters of this nature. The bill would require:
- ammonium nitrate fertilizer to be stored in non-combustible facilities
- regular inspections of facilities
- training for first responders on how to fight fires that break out at ammonium nitrate storage sites
Many in the House of Representatives, however, have made it plain that they are going to oppose any new regulations intended to prevent another disaster like the one in West.
One of the more ludicrous reasons for this opposition is that these safety regulations “could put ‘Mom and Pop’ fertilizer companies out of business,” according to one politician. There is, of course, not many ‘mom and pop fertilizer companies’ in this day and age of massive multinational corporate agribusiness that would be affected.
Another reason presented for this opposition is that “any new rules for volunteer fire departments could strain budgets.” To be sure, nothing in the proposed legislature forces any fire department to purchase new materials or equipment. The bill calls only for increased safety training, which would in turn save lives.
Business owners usually side with lawmakers in opposing new safety legislation, because adopting changes could cut into their bottom line. This is yet another example of companies putting profit above their workers’ safety.
Very few, if any, companies have independently offered to implement the kind of safety protocol that would ensure their employees’ well-being.
Even if a bill with new regulations for facilities using and storing ammonium nitrate does miraculously pass next year, it will be years before existing facilities are made to comply.
Hurt at Work and Need an Attorney?
If you or a loved one has been involved in an industrial accident that could have been avoided, contact our injury lawyer in Austin. At The Law Offices of Aaron Allison, we have served our clients faithfully since 1978, and we understand that there can be real challenges when dealing with a serious injury. We will work aggressively to hold negligent business owners responsible for their actions. For a free consultation about your case, call our office at (512) 474-8346.