No one ever wants to experience a workplace injury, but what happens if the worst comes to pass? While not all workplaces are equally susceptible to workplace explosions, if you work an industrial job with plenty of machinery around, it's a grim possibility. In 2014, 137 people were killed by fires and explosions at work according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in its National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. Some of the areas that are at the highest risk of a workplace explosion include manufacturing plants, mining operations, construction sites, chemical plants, and oil and gas industry extraction and production areas.
While there are a variety of causes of workplace explosions, some of the most common are due to negligence. We've put together a list of some of the more common reasons and causes behind workplace explosions so you can keep an eye out for potential hazards:
- Dust and Airborne Buildup: Without proper ventilation, powder from metal, plastic, and wood operations, as well as dust can build up. After a certain point, any small spark can cause the entire room to go up in flames. Mines and factories are especially susceptible to this issue, so it's important to install and properly maintain extraction fans to prevent a potential explosion.
- Faulty Wiring and Electrical Equipment: One of the most common sources of workplace explosions start with fires caused by faulty equipment and wiring. Loose cables and damaged plugs are especially dangerous, and should be replaced immediately. All electrical equipment needs to be tested and checked regularly by an expert.
- Smoking: It's common knowledge that smoking can cause health problems, but improperly disposing of cigarette butts can cause larger issues far sooner than expected. Whether the designated smoking area is dangerously close to flammable materials or if the cigarettes are disposed in locations close to flammable materials, a stray ember can spark a flame and cause irreparable damage.
- Overloaded Electrical Sockets: This issue can occur at any workplace with a power outlet. When too many appliances are plugged into one electrical socket, it can cause it to overheat and start a fire. In order to avoid this issue, do not plug more appliances that total more than 3000 watts of 13amps across the socket.
- Human Error: Whether the fire started because of misused machinery or equipment, spills on electrical equipment, cooking left unattended, accidents, or any other way, human error or negligence is an unfortunately common way that workplace fires and explosions can occur. While it's not possible to completely remove human error, through proper safety training, the worst of the damage can be mitigated.
Workplace explosions are terrifying and tragic events, and after the explosion at the West Fertilizer Company facility in 2013, it became abundantly clear that the U.S. workplace safety laws and their enforcement were woefully inadequate. After the explosion that killed 14 people and injured another 200, it came to light that the Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) had not inspected the fertilizer plant since 1985. Events like these are unacceptable, but due to OSHA being underfunded, facilities often go uninspected for decades. At the time, the largest fine that OSHA could levy against offending locations was $7,000, a laughable amount for so many large manufacturing plants.
Workplace explosions can devastate an entire community depending on their size. If you or a loved one was injured in a workplace explosion caused by negligence or error, you may be eligible to file a claim. Our San Antonio work accident attorneys at the Wyatt Law Firm, Ltd. are prepared to fight for your rights in order to help get you the compensation you deserve. Contact us today through our online form, or give us a call at (210) 702-2162 to discuss your case.