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Worker Injured in Phillips 66 Wood River Refinery Explosion

Posted on Monday, February 11th, 2019 at 8:30 am    

The Phillips 66 Wood River Refinery in Roxana, IL, exploded in the early evening on Sunday, February 10. One man was reported injured in the event, though reports say he only sustained minor injuries. After the explosion and resulting fire, the injured man was able to walk himself to the ambulance where he was taken to a nearby hospital to get checked out.


According to Phillips 66 Wood River Refinery spokeswoman Melissa Erker, the explosion, or as she referred to it, “an incident,” happened around 4:30 p.m. Residents in the surrounding community heard the explosion from inside their homes, and they were able to see a column of fire spouting out of the refinery after the initial blast.


Erker said the “incident” led to the fire taking hold in a process unit. The fire is under control and has been separated from additional danger. The spokeswoman told local reporters, “The scene is secure, the refinery is secure, and the air quality in the region is fine.”


The Phillips 66 refinery employs over 1,100 people and covers 2,200 acres, so it’s fortunate that only one person was only hurt with minor injuries.


Spokeswoman Erker said that Phillips 66 is going to investigate what could have caused the explosion, that their mistakes will be learned from, and what they learn will keep incidents like this from happening again. However, there is still no word on what may have lead to the explosion.


The Phillips Disaster

Regardless of what plants spokespeople say after nearly every explosion that takes place at one of their facilities, this wasn’t the first explosion in a Phillips 66 facility and it very likely won’t be the last. One of the worst plant explosions in American history happened at a Phillips 66 plant, and it is now referred to as The Phillips Disaster of 1989.


On October 23, 1989, a series of explosions rocked the Phillips 66 Houston Chemical Complex, which is technically located in Pasadena. The explosions at this facility were so powerful, in fact, that they registered on the Richter scale at a 3.5 magnitude. After the explosion, controlling the resulting fire took ten hours of firefighting. Ultimately, 23 employees were killed and another 314 were injured.


After a thorough investigation, it was found that the explosion was caused by a release of highly flammable process gases on a polyethylene reactor. Over 39 tons (about 85,000 lbs) of those gases were released almost instantly via an open valve while employees were attempting to conduct regular maintenance. It was later discovered that the valve had been reversed during the previous maintenance, leaving the workers to believe they were shutting the valve off rather than fully opening it.


The gasses that came flooding out of the open valve spread quickly through the plant. In under two minutes, the gas cloud made its way to an ignition source. When the two made contact, the resulting blast had an equivalent energy release of 2.4 tons of TNT. In a matter of minutes after that, a 20,000 gollan isobutane exploded, another polyethylene reactor failed, and another assumed six more explosions spread through the plant.


Findings from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

After any explosion such as the one that occurred on Sunday evening, OSHA conducts a thorough investigation to determine what safety violations may have been committed within the company. These investigations can take a number of months to complete, so it may be a few more months before we know the extent of the issues that led to the Phillips 66 Wood River Refinery explosion.


The OSHA investigation from the Phillips Disaster of 1989 ended on April 19, 1990. An OSHA document said, “OSHA issued 566 willful and 9 serious violations with a combined total proposed penalty of $5,666,200 to Phillips 66 Company and 181 willful and 12 serious violations with a combined penalty to Fish Engineering and Construction, Inc., a maintenance contractor on the site.”


Ultimately, OSHA and Phillips 66 agreed on a settlement that led to OSHA deleting the willful aspect of the violations. In return, Phillips 66 said they would add further safety management procedures at a handful of their facilities as well as pay fines of $4,000,000.


Houston Lawyers Experienced in Plant Explosions

When an explosion like the one on Sunday or the so-called Phillips Disaster happens, it can be difficult for a family affected by tragedy to take any kind of action beyond accepting whatever settlement they’re offered.


However, the fact of the matter is that these companies are only looking out for their bottom line – they’re looking to offer as little compensation as possible they believe a bereaved family or injured party will accept. The attorneys at Williams Hart can help you and your family fight for justice and compensation to help make things as right as possible after such an event.


If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in an explosion accident or other oil industry incident, get in touch with us as soon as possible to set up a free consultation.


Call us today – (713) 352-7071

Massive Gas Line Explosion Rocks San Francisco

Posted on Thursday, February 7th, 2019 at 9:57 am    

A San Francisco gas line exploded around 1 p.m. yesterday afternoon in the Jordan Park neighborhood, swallowing the Hong Kong Lounge II restaurant and its upstairs units in flames. The spokesman for the San Francisco Fire Department (SFFD) said multiple people were rescued during the incident. As of 3:35 p.m., the fire was out, though firefighters were still working on making sure the area was free from any secondary flashes.

The blaze from the gas line caused a column of fire that reached higher than the neighborhood’s buildings. While it burned, the SFFD worked to evacuate the area and San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White noted that firefighters had to surround and douse the fire the best they could until Pacific Gas & Electric, the major energy company in Northern California, shut off the gas line. It took around two-and-a-half hours for PG&E to finally shut down the line.

By the time all the flames had been put out, four buildings had been affected.

Although cutting the line to the area affected the gas of over 300 people and electricity to over 2,500, PG&E considered shutting down a much bigger gas line, which would have made the gas outage cover the entire city.

Image via San Francisco Fire Department/Twitter

Stopping the Fire

To access the line to stop the flow of gas, PG&E crew were forced to dig underground. The company’s spokeswoman Melissa Subbotin said they were able to stop the flow by pinching a 4-inch plastic gas line while also using a manual shut off.

Thankfully, there were no fatalities or injuries resulting from the blast and blaze, which is an even more remarkable feat when looking at the extensive damage done to the structure. While there was a moment of apprehension while looking for five missing workers, they were later found safe.

At this time, it is believed that the incident was caused by workers using a backhoe in front of the restaurant. While installing fiber optic cables for a nearby business, they apparently cut a natural gas line, resulting in the explosion.

Gas Line Explosions in the U.S.

While the exceptional emergency response to the San Francisco gas line explosion led to an astounding zero injuries or death, many involved in similar incidents around the country have not been so lucky.

In September of 2018, northern Massachusetts had a reported 50 homes catch fire from individual explosions covering three cities. Investigators to this event said that Columbia Gas didn’t tell workers to take pressure sensors offline before removing an old gas main from the system. That resulted in the sensors noticing the pressure drop, which told the system to increase pressure to the gas line. Mere moments after this occurrence, homes in North Andover, Andover, and Lawrence started exploding from the increased force in the pipes. One of the blasts caused a chimney to fall on top of an occupied vehicle, killing the driver. The Massachusetts explosions caused twenty-one injuries, two of which were firefighters.

On March 12, 2014, East Harlem shook shook when a gas explosion took down two five-story apartment buildings. A gas leak was identified as the cause of this blast. Eight people died, dozens were injured, and at least 100 families were displaced.

While incidents such as these used to demand much more attention from the news, gas line and gas pipeline accidents have become far more common in the U.S. since the early 2000’s. Rural, metropolitan, and suburban areas are all at risk from any number of errors caused by gas and energy distribution. These have lead to extensive deaths, injuries, and property damage across the country, and there may be little to slow down these occurrences as our culture becomes increasingly dependent on gas, oil, natural gas, electricity, and other forms of energy.

Seeking Legal Counsel for Compensation After a Gas Explosion

If you were injured in a gas explosion or fire, or a loved one was hurt or died in one, you may be offered a settlement by the company at fault for your pain and suffering. However, settlement amounts are determined by insurance companies, corporate lawyers, and their clients. Their best interest is rarely to ever fully rectify a situation. Instead, they are looking at their bottom line. And once someone accepts a settlement like this, they are also forced into waiving their rights to ever sue the company again should any long-term injuries or complications arise.

With over three decades of experience in cases involving workplace accidents, personal injuries, wrongful death, and serious explosions, the attorneys at Williams Hart will fight for your rights as the injured or bereaved to help you receive full compensation.

Contact us today to set up a free consultation where we will discuss the specifics of your case and determine your best course of action.  Call (713) 230-2200.  


Two Workers Burned at an Industrial Plant Explosion In Conroe Last Thursday

Posted on Friday, February 1st, 2019 at 11:03 am    

Chemical Plant Explosion

Two workers were severely burned in an electrical malfunction which caused a fire at Aegion Coating Services, an industrial plant in Conroe, TX on Thursday.

Emergency personnel from the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue responded to the fire that started at an industrial plant in Conroe. Two workers that were performing repairs on an electrical panel suffered electrical burns when there was a flash explosion from inside the panel. The exact cause of the explosion and fire is yet to be determined, but it did originate from the related work that was being done on the panel.

According to the Fire Marshal from Montgomery County, interviews will need to be conducted to find out the exact source of the blaze and determine what actions were the root cause. The panel contained high-voltage circuits and supplies current to several large manufacturing machines. A flash fire erupted and burned the personnel in mere seconds. First responders mentioned that the current was typically about 400 volts passing through that panel. Both of the workers were reported to be in stable condition at the Texas Medical Center hospital later in the day.

Industrial Plants Are Major Sources Of Accidents and Injuries

The workplace, and particularly industrial workplaces, can be dangerous. Owners and managers need to pay special attention to incidents that could result in accidents and injuries to their employees. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), is tasked with investigating and preventing workplace accidents in the US., but in no way can they, or do they, prevent tragic workplace accidents.

Several common injuries are simpler to prevent, such as lifting objects that are too heavy or in an improper manner and straining the back or damaging spinal discs that can permanently  disable a worker. In these types of injuries, it’s long-term training of supervisors and employees that help curtail injuries. It’s always better to take a little more time and get the right tools and help when lifting heavy objects.

Fatigue is another problem in the workplace. Breaks are mandatory, whether the employee thinks so or not. It’s important for management to realize that employees that are fatigued are at higher risk and are involved in more accidents.

In an industrial plant such as Aegion Coating Services, there are also plenty of possible toxic gases if any of their flammable coatings catch fire. They specialize in anti-corrosion coatings for pipelines that are sold throughout the world anywhere that oil and gas products are produced or refined.

Preventing fires from spreading in an industrial plant requires a focus on safety. Keeping sources of fires, such as electrical panels, located farther away from flammable liquids and fumes helps keep fires contained to their original sources.

OSHA makes regular visits to all manufacturing facilities and makes sure that exhaust fans, dust collectors, and other safety measures are working, well maintained and inspected.

Welding, Electrical, and Flame Sources Limited

Many fires are caused not by the usual activities of the industrial plant but instead by service workers. These workers are usually third-party contractors that are unaware of flammables and use tools that create what is called “hot work” in prohibited areas. Sometimes the repair work is unavoidable but safety can be increased by limiting exposure to flammable gasses, liquids, and combustible dusts.

The Oil And Gas Industry Experiences and Accidents

While the oil and gas industry has had a steady decline in the number of accidents per year, they are still struggling to become safer for their employees.  Surprisingly, one of the most dangerous parts of the entire industry is driving motor vehicles on the road. Yearly nearly 18% of all deaths in the industry are attributed to motor vehicle accidents on roadways.

And sadly, not wearing seat belts, an easily preventable mistake, is a major reason for deaths on the road. Fatigue while driving is the second most preventable cause of those accidents and could be prevented with more breaks, less time pressure, and other fatigue countermeasures that are being studied.

Other accidents that happen on oil rigs, both onshore and offshore, have been reduced in recent years due to heavy use of machines that do much of the heavy lifting, plus more safety requirements to reduce exposure to hazardous conditions. As the industry gets more automated, with fewer workers and more machines, there should be a continued decline in accidents and injuries.

Hurt in an Industrial-Related Accident? We Can Help

The lawyers at Williams Hart have been handling explosion accident injuries in Houston, Texas and nationwide for years. We also handle cases such as car/truck accidents, wrongful death, and work injuries. Visit our office today or call (713) 230-2200 for a free consultation.

Fatal Explosion Leads to Texas Legislator Urging Pipeline Safety Measures

Posted on Thursday, January 31st, 2019 at 7:11 am    

Texas Representative Rafael Anchia (D) has proposed new regulations that will increase oversight over gas pipeline safety. He argues the regulations he’s pushing would have kept an explosion that happened last year from killing a 12-year-old girl. Anchia has also noted that lobbyists are already making claims that the proposals aren’t any good.

A major component of the legislation he’s pushing includes a requirement that leaks be reported immediately to the public by gas companies. The primary means of reporting these leaks would be through a searchable map people can use to look up issues in their areas.

Anchias plan would also include replacing “rusted, corroded, or faulty pipes in the state of Texas and make sure that our infrastructure is at 21st century standards.”

When talking to local media channel KXAN, Anchia discussed what he would like the legislation to accomplish. He said, “So the bills fall into two buckets. We filed them this week. And one group of the bills deals with the Railroad Commission as an effective regulator. And the second group of bills deals with operators of natural gas pipelines to reduce the risk of explosions, like the one that happened in my district that killed the little 12-year-old girl, so that they don’t happen again.”


Better Gas Pipeline Monitoring and Commission Transparency

One interesting facet of his proposal is that it gives those who live near pipelines a better way to monitor for and report leaks. Rep. Anchia noted, “And those bills seek to increase transparency both at the Railroad Commission level and also among operators so that people can self-police in their neighborhoods, see if there are leaks in their neighborhoods, and report those immediately to the gas companies.”

He continued, “Even if we improve them, they just don’t have the budget to be everywhere at all times. So what we want to do is empower people in their communities, so that when they smell a gas leak or see one on an interactive map, they can immediately call the gas company, have them come, fix those leaks.”


Gas Pipeline Safety in Texas Can and Should be Better

Anchia is understandably upset by the girl’s death, especially if the explosion was as preventable as he believes it was. He said, “This little girl’s death could have been prevented. Regrettably, there were two explosions before her death that either went under reported or unreported to the authorities. There were no independent investigators on site. The reality is that if we have immediate action on the part of the regulator or the gas company, lives can be saved, and that’s what these bills seek to do.”


Roadblocks to Gas Pipeline Safety

Although Anchia is fighting for the safety of his constituents and residents all over Texas, he figures he will face staunch opposition from the gas and oil industries. When asked if he expected to experience any roadblocks to his proposals, he said, “Well, look, there are some very powerful forces that are going to seek to kill these bills.” However, if Anchia had it his way, he would “want to work with stakeholders across the board to make sure that [they] make good public policy that reduces the risk of these leaks and accidents [from] ever happening again, and we open our door to everyone.”


Fighting for Justice After a Gas Leak Injury or Death

For many in Texas, the additional oversight would be a welcome addition to the state’s laws. However, until they get implemented, assuming the laws ever do, the general public has no way of knowing when and where gas leaks and the danger they bring might happen. Because of that, there will continue to be explosions leading to injury and death. Many of them could be preventable, too.

If you or a loved one was hurt or worse in an incident involving a gas pipeline leak or explosion, seek professional legal assistance immediately. The companies controlling pipelines across Texas will do everything in their power to minimize their costs, and that will mean attempting to manipulate you and your family through a variety of methods.

The experienced attorneys and support staff at Williams Hart have helped clients fight gas pipeline injury and death cases for decades, and we will do the same for you. We’ll fight for justice on your behalf. Call us today at (713) 352-7071 for a free consultation to discuss your case.

Retired Firefighter Killed In Lubbock Area Explosion

Posted on Sunday, January 20th, 2019 at 12:45 pm    

Quanah Explosion Killed Retired Firefighter

Photo via KSWO7News

Two fires broke out inside of a Lubbock area auto repair store yesterday. The first resulted in an explosion that killed a man.

Retired Firefighter Killed in the Explosion

Three individuals were inside the shop when the initial fire started. Two of them were outside, but one man was still indoors and was later identified as 69-year-old Robert Floyd Pierce. The two men outside survived and were taken to UMC Lubbock.

Sheriff Laughery identified Pierce as a retired firefighter, having served in the Vernon fire department. The sheriff noted that this was a tragedy and offered prayers to the deceased’s family.

Investigation Underway

Fire marshalls were initially unable to determine the cause of the explosion. The second fire happened in the middle of the evening while press were still reporting from the scene.  It was later determined that the fires were the result of a malfunctioning tank and additional details will follow.

Photo via KSWO7News

Photo via KSWO7News

Accidental Explosions Of Man-Made Nature

Accidental explosions from man-made sources are somewhat rare but not unheard of. The largest was in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia during World War I when a freighter full of ammunition collided with another vessel. The resulting explosion killed over 2,000 people, which was more than the combat losses Nova Scotia suffered in the actual conflict.

Explosions today are significantly less severe thanks to more than a century of advancement in technology, awareness, and safety techniques. Yet, they still happen. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, several hundred people die annually at work from explosions and fires.

Consulting An Attorney After An Explosion Or Fire

If you or a loved one is injured in a fire or explosion, obviously seek medical attention immediately, but also consult an attorney as quickly as possible.  The lawyers at Williams Hart are here to help. We have been handling workplace accidents, explosions and fires since 1983.  Call us at (888) 220-0640 today for a free confidential consultation.

Never do business with a lawyer who says over the phone they can win your case without hearing the particulars first. No professional legal representation can guarantee a win.


Have you or a loved one been injured in an accident?

Contact us today at (888) 220-0640 to get a free, confidential case evaluation.