Chemical Plant Explosion Victims’ Families Sue

Chemical Plant Explosion Victims’ Families Sue

One man who was seriously injured, and the families of four workers who died in an industrial accident have filed lawsuits against the chemical plant at which the series of explosions occurred.

The explosions occurred when a worker opened a valve on the wrong reactor – a reactor that was in operation at the time, found the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board. The gas that was released exploded.

The CSHIB said the plant’s owner, Formosa Plastics Corporation U.S.A., failed to correct obvious problems that made this type of mistake possible.

What Happened?

Investigators determined that an employee who was cleaning three-story reactors one night opened the valve on the wrong one.

“He’s on the top level, does the cleaning, goes down flights of stairs and he was supposed to go left to reactor 306 and open the drain valve,” said Formosa Spokesman Rob Thibault. “Apparently what happened was that he went right.”

The worker bypassed several safety measures without authorization from his supervisor, which was a violation of the company’s procedure, said the investigation board. However, some workers believe that the reactor malfunctioned or failed, which led it to try to relieve pressure on its own. This released the vinyl chloride monomer inside. The cloud of VCM that was released exploded.

Where the Fault Lies

The investigations faulted Formosa for failing to recognize and rectify the plant’s susceptibility to such accidents despite the fact that its Baton Rouge plant was fined because its workers did the same thing in 2003. Fortunately, that mistake did not lead to an explosion.

The investigators also faulted the plant for failing to install some means of communication at the site of the accident. Even walkie-talkies could have allowed employees to communicate while working near the reactors.

“There are just so many different things that occurred here that a prudent company could have identified to prevent such a catastrophic event,” said Carolyn Merritt, investigative board Chairman. “How much do walkie-talkies cost?”

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