Pipeline Explosions and Safety

Recently, a natural gas pipeline explosion sent shock waves through residential neighborhoods and lit up the night sky near the South Texas city of Refugio, a rural community north of Corpus Christi, about 15 miles from the Texas Coast. Witnesses claim they heard a loud boom and that their bed shook them awake. The explosion, which occurred at about 1:30 a.m., left behind a massive fire that could be seen from several miles away. Thankfully, in this case, no injuries were reported and the fire was put out rather quickly, but it points up the vulnerability Texans have living and working near gas pipelines, as many of us do. Nationwide, there have been more than 2,000 accidents involving gas transmission lines in the past 20 years, which comes to at least one every four days. And a significant proportion of those have happened in Texas.

Another recent incident happened when a Texas Eastern pipeline explosion up near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania left one man injured, damaged several homes and disrupted gas flows to the Northeast. In that case, federal investigators found that the pipe had corroded in at least two welds in critical places in the pipeline. The pattern of corrosion indicated a possible flaw in the coating material used on the weld joints. The worst part is, it was not the first time weld cracks had been found in the Texas Eastern pipeline in recent years. In fact, there have been 62 incidents on the 9,000-mile system in the past 30 years.

Texas is extremely rich in natural gas, holding about a quarter of the nation’s gas reserves.  There is no doubt that natural gas is a vital resource that is important on both a residential and industrial scale. It is used to generate electricity, and it also powers heating and cooking. It plays a critical role in fuel production. While it is important to our lives and our economy, the fact of the matter is, a natural gas explosion can leave behind injuries, deaths and property damage. It can destroy a community almost instantly, taking down homes and businesses and devastating the lives of everyone within striking distance, including residents, workers, and their families. And while there have been many technological improvements that have made the gas pipeline industry safer over time, there are still far too many leaks and explosions.

According to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), there were a total of 715 incidents nationwide in 2015, and Texas tops the list of states when it comes to pipeline explosions. In fact, Houston ranks as the most dangerous city in the United States when it comes to gas pipeline leaks.

Unfortunately, most oil and gas pipeline leaks and explosions are caused by human error. The most commonly cited causes of oil refinery and pipeline explosions in Texas include negligence, carelessness and violations of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations and standards, although human error, defective machinery or machinery that has not been maintained or repaired properly also are major contributors, as well.

Crude oil and natural gas are very dangerous materials and they must be handled with extreme care. Workers in the oil and gas industry must always be properly trained to handle them with the greatest of care. They also must be trained to handle hazardous chemicals, machinery and other tools and processes. Maintenance and proper repair of a pipeline is also extremely important, as is enough employee training to be able to spot a potential hazard immediately and to be able to take prompt action to avoid a major disaster.

Pipeline explosions often happen because oil and gas companies or their workers take shortcuts or otherwise fail to adhere to safety regulations, often in order to cut costs and maximize profits. While they may save a little money, such explosions can cause serious property damage, injuries, deaths and even serious environmental disasters, the effects of which can linger for a very long time.

In March 2016, the PHMSA issued a press release proposing new safety guidelines for natural gas pipelines.  In that release, agency officials noted that growth was creating tremendous pressure on the system, resulting in oil and gas companies feeling more pressure to supply more oil and gas more quickly. That is a major incentive for companies to push aside safety measures and fail to implement them or enforce them. That is a recipe for negligence. However, to date, these proposals haven’t become reality. The fact is, a lot more must be done to protect everyone from the danger of pipeline explosions.

Oil & Gas Pipeline Explosion Injuries

The injuries caused by oil and gas explosions can be life-altering. The injuries can include severe burns, amputations of limbs, broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries and many other injuries that can be extremely painful and require extensive medical treatment, rehabilitation or, quite possibly, life-long care. A variety of injuries can leave severe scarring or permanent disabilities that could affect the victim’s ability to earn a living or even to perform daily life functions.

The injuries sustained in such incidents can last a lifetime and cost you and your family for a lifetime. That’s why the Pipeline Explosion Injury Lawyers at the Hill Law Firm are a great resource to turn to if you or a loved one have been injured in a pipeline explosion. The understand how the system works and how explosion injuries affect all aspects of the lives of both victims and their families. Regardless of how complex the case is or how long it takes, we have the knowledge and experience to make the parties responsible for the accident pay for their negligence.

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