Safety Regulations Needed to Stop Fuel Storage Tank Explosions
An oil tank explosion recently claimed the life of a 24-year old woman and seriously injured a 25-year old man after they lit up a cigarette while they were socializing on top of an oil tank located in New London, Texas. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. According to investigators, oil and gas storage tank explosions have killed 44 people and have injured another 25 since 1983. All were younger than 26 years old.
The explosions – there have been 26 since 1983 – predominately take place in remote areas at unprotected storage tanks holding newly extracted and unrefined gas or oil. Many of the sites are not fenced in, have no supervision and have no warning signs posted which makes them a tempting place for young people to convene and socialize, the CSB found.
After an investigation of the New London explosion and two others, the safety board concluded all three incidents could have been prevented with improved warning signs and better tank designs, such as a secured hatch. However, a sign posted at the New London site warning against smoking, matches or open flames was covered over with graffiti.
Safety Measures Needed
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) reported it has instructed gas and oil companies to take preventative action by designing safer tanks for the unrefined gas or oil. The safety board’s suggested improvements include flame arrestors, vapor recovery systems, vents equipped with pressure-vacuum devices and floating roofs. These safety measures would help prevent an internal tank explosion should an ignition source such as a match or lighter be used nearby.
Currently, there are no safety measures for facilities housing unrefined petroleum products like there are for facilities farther along in the oil refining process. In fact, the CSB reports under the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, sites like the one that killed the 25-year old in New London actually are exempt from such safety measures.
The CSB reported that the highest number fatalities due to such explosions have occurred in Texas and Oklahoma – and they say the problem demands immediate solutions. According to the CSB, other states like California and Ohio require a degree of security for oil and gas production sites. As such, California has had no fatal tank explosions between 1983 and 2011. Texas and Oklahoma do not have similar standards for flammable storage tanks.
The CSB recently challenged the Texas Railroad Commission to augment oil and gas regulations by lobbying for locked fences and barriers to prevent unauthorized entry at the sites, as well as hatch locks on the tanks. It also released a safety video titled “No Place to Hang Out: The Danger of Oil Well Sites” that is intended to educate young people about the dangers associated with gas and oil storage tanks.
An Attorney Can Help
Oil and gas explosions are very serious and cause severe injuries and fatalities. Until further federal or state regulations are passed requiring safety measures at rural locations storing unrefined petroleum products, tragic accidents like the New London incident will likely continue to happen. If you or a loved one has been injured in an explosion, contact an attorney right away. An attorney can advise you on your rights and recover compensation for you injuries from the parties responsible.