Until The Status Quo Changes On Safety Regulations, Texas Fertilizer Plants Are Time Bombs
Austin, TX (Law Firm Newswire) October 17, 2013 – Safety regulations are not an investment decision. They are intended to protect real people.
“The dust has settled at the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion, but not much has been done about lax safety rules and regulations,” stated Austin personal injury lawyer, Brooks Schuelke. The company is noted to have a significant history of safety violations, beginning in 1985. Over the intervening 28-years, not much has changed. Rules are in place, but are honored more in the breach than in the proper implementation.
“Whatever happened to proper regulations designed for the specific safety of those working installations like the West fertilizer plant?” asked Schuelke. Many other safety hawks across America are asking themselves the same question. Right now, the system is that there are regulations present at the federal level, addressing health and some safety issues. Overall, there are only 26 states with mini-me Occupational Safety and Health-like operations that supposedly have regulations that are as strict as federal statutes. “At this point, that appears to be questionable,” added Schuelke.
Consider the case of a fertilizer storage facility in Pennsylvania that has 432 times the ammonia on its premises than West’s plant did when it went up in a huge blast. Pennsylvania has 59 locations that store this highly combustible chemical. Across America, there are 12,000 facilities that keep toxic substances in storage. Accidents looking for a place to happen? “It seems so,” suggested Schuelke, “as part of the bigger picture is a lack of inspectors to keep track of about 7 million locations.”
A closer inspection of fines and penalties points out that even if the OSHA does catch a storage facility flagrantly violating the law, they generally get what amounts to a half-hearted rebuke, without much in the way of follow up. A person may go to jail, for up to a year if they are caught harassing a wild animal. The stiffest penalty for knowingly violating OSHA rules relating to toxic chemicals that kill someone is six months in jail and a $10,000 fine. It seems human life holds a lesser value.
“Texas has approximately 700 depots just like West’s facility. It also has a dismal reputation for the worst safety record in America for on-the-job deaths for the last ten years,” stated Schuelke. In many instances, money is the motivating factor for not improving workplace safety. Safety is not an investment decision. It is about human safety above all else. “Ironically, if those same workers choose to blow the whistle on a company, they find themselves without a job. Where is the justice in that?”
Perlmutter & Schuelke, PLLC
206 East 9th Street, Ste. 1511
Austin, TX 78701
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