The equipment that is used at plants and refineries is one of the most common causes of plant explosions. There are two separate reasons why equipment could be to blame. First, it has aged naturally and has simply become outdated. Second, the equipment may have been defective from the very beginning. Either way, it is a dangerous scenario for those who are near the plant.
The use of sub-standard material is a very real danger for people who work at industrial plants, as well as people who live in the surrounding communities; it is not a danger that is limited to America. In fact, the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in India recently came under fire for its use of inferior materials. As our attorneys have seen, this is a prevalent problem. In fact, most plants haven’t been updated for half a century, meaning that the equipment-and the technology-that they’re using is antiquated. Even in cases where the technology would be appropriate, the equipment may be so worn down it can no longer properly function.
This was highlighted in the 2005 BP Texas City explosion, which killed 15 workers and injured more than 170 other individuals. In the investigations that following the incident, it was found that there were multiple failures that led up to the explosion; in fact, after the plant had been examined by Telos, a consulting firm, a report was released in January 2005, in which one of the co-authors stated that “we have never seen a site where the notion ‘I could die today’ was so real.” Yet, despite the obvious problems with the plant, no steps were taken that would help to lower risk for the employees who worked there.
In the original reports, some of the problems were broken alarms, thinning pipe, as well as heavy objects falling throughout the plant. Some of these contributed to the later explosion; for example, a disabled alarm that kept the plant from being notified when the raffinate splitter overpressure protection system overfilled the tower contents. Had the proper care and caution been taken, this equipment may have been upgraded with new, functioning models, which may have been enough to keep the incident from ever occurring. Unfortunately, it is not an isolated incident—aging equipment is often the cause of plant explosions.
Three Types of Defective Equipment
Defective equipment refers to any type of equipment that no longer works because of an inherent defect. The truth, however, is that this can be split up into even more specific categories:
- Design Defects: In some cases, the equipment may be flawed from the design alone. In these cases, no matter how well it was manufactured, it would be considered defective.
- Manufacturing Defects: When the design isn’t flawed, the defect may stem from the manufacturing process-such as the use of inferior materials or the improper training of employees.
- Marketing Defects: Also known as a “failure to warn,” marketing defects stem from a known defect in the equipment that is not properly announced so that consumers could be fairly warned.
Regardless of whether the explosion was caused by antiquated equipment or equipment that was defective, if you have been injured, you deserve to have compassionate, high-quality legal representation on your side. At Penn and Seaborn, we have been involved in countless cases since our founding in 2002. If you are interested in discussing your case with a plant explosion attorney from our firm, simply give us a call at (334) 738-4486.