Explosion at Chemical Plant at Houston Ship Channel Highlights Dangers of City’s Largest Industry

by | Aug 7, 2012 | Law And Politics

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The Houston Chronicle reports that one worker was injured and another died in an explosion at an Oiltanking Partners L.P. plant in Channelview near the Houston Ship Channel. Investigators concluded that the accident was caused by a welding machine malfunction, but the tragedy highlights the need for extreme measures to be taken to ensure the safety of workers at the plants in Pasadena and along the Houston Ship Channel, the city’s largest industrial district and an important source of revenue for Houston, Galveston, and the state of Texas.

The shipping and petrochemical industries that have made the Houston Ship Channel one of the nation’s largest and most important ports have traditionally presented a high risk of personal injury to their employees and workers. In many cases, this risk has been successfully mitigated by stringent safety standards rigorously observed by responsible employers and business owners. Other times, relaxation of those standards or failure of oversight has led to catastrophe. Sometimes, catastrophe happens in spite of the best efforts of those responsible for avoiding them. The principle question that this accident puts to Houstonians is how to tell the difference between negligence and honest mistakes or unavoidable tragedies.

Personal injury attorneys in Houston and elsewhere take primary responsibility for determining and maintaining accountability on the part of everyone whose job it is to ensure the safety of workers and contractors. We don’t often think of personal injury attorneys as fulfilling an important civic duty, but perhaps it’s time to reassess that opinion. Personal injury attorneys are best equipped to handle and are least personally invested in the safe maintenance and operation of Houston’s industrial sector. Moreover, this has been the traditional purpose of litigation; to ensure and enforce accountability and fairness by awarding compensation in cases where criminal courts can’t prosecute on the basis of existing laws.

In this case, the Houston Police Department has determined no responsibility rests with the owners of the plant, and the plant owners have acted appropriately to compensate the victims of the accident and their families. This is not always the case, however; we’re right to be diligent in our oversight of corporate operators working in dangerous industries, and a Houston personal injury attorney is an invaluable partner in that process. Better regulation will always help, but we will never completely dispense with the need for personal injury attorneys to litigate on our behalf in cases where the law hasn’t yet been established or has failed altogether to prevent tragedy.

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