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OSHA issues citations in fertilizer plant industrial accident

Most everyone in California has heard about the explosion at a fertilizer plant in the Lone Star State back in April. The industrial accident took the lives of 15 people and injured over 160. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has concluded its investigation into the incident.

The fertilizer plant has been cited with 24 violations that are considered to be "serious" threats to the safety of the plant and its workers. The violations include how chemicals were handled and stored at the plant. Two of the chemicals in question are ammonium nitrate and anhydrous ammonia. The failure to properly store and handle these chemicals puts workers at risk of injury from inhalation, explosion and fire.

OSHA also found that the company had no adequate emergency response plan and lacked the requisite number and type of fire extinguishers. It has been revealed that OSHA had not inspected the Texas fertilizer plant since 1985. Any further investigation by OSHA into the tragedy has been postponed due to the government shutdown. In addition, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board has likewise had to delay its investigation due to the shutdown.

The citations are currently being reviewed by the company's attorneys. According to a spokesperson for the West Fertilizer Co., the company does not believe the violations cited by OSHA were linked to the industrial accident at first glance. It remains to be seen how the company will respond to the $118,300 in fines assessed by OSHA.

As the official investigations by both government agencies and the company continue, the families of the deceased and the injured may still be recovering from this horrific explosion. A sudden death or serious injury can forever alter not only the life of the victim, but the family as well. As would be the case here in California, the injured workers may be entitled to workers' compensation benefits to help with their medical costs and lost wages. The family of the workers that died in this blast may be entitled to workers' compensation death benefits to help with the family's expenses. Filing civil actions may also be possible if the company is found to have been grossly negligent.

Source: Los Angeles Times, West, Texas, fertilizer plant that exploded cited over safety, Richard Simon, Oct. 10, 2013

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