Workers in the many plants and refineries like oil refineries, natural gas refineries, metal refineries, and fertilizer plants face dangers on the job that are unique to their industry. They work with a variety of heavy, dangerous machinery and are exposed to hazardous chemicals—many highly flammable as well. This can result in catastrophic accidents and explosions, causing employees to suffer life-threatening injuries and death.

Common Causes of Plant and Refinery Accidents

There are a variety of situations in a plant or refinery where workers face serious dangers of being injured—even if they are being careful. Common reasons these accidents occur include:

  1. Improper maintenance. When equipment and heavy machinery, such as boilers, pressure vessels, alarms, and storage tanks, are not maintained and replaced when necessary, an accident can occur with deadly results.
  2. Corrosion. During a plant’s everyday operations, the metal in equipment and machinery will wear down. If not inspected and maintained regularly, it could weaken and corrode, in some cases causing the surrounding environment to begin oxidation.
  3. Chemicals. There are strict regulations regarding the chemicals that can be used in plants and refineries and their quality. When impure or dirty chemicals are utilized or they are not mixed properly, a dangerous chemical reaction can occur, with a resulting fire or explosion.
  4. Vehicle collisions. Heavy machinery, such as forklifts and other equipment can collide in the relatively small work areas they must move in, causing workers to suffer serious injuries or fatalities.
  5. Struck by objects. Workers risk being struck by or caught in between the equipment and machinery they must operate, especially if the equipment and machinery is not properly maintained or the employee is not trained in its hazards.
  6. Inadequate ventilation. Employers must provide proper ventilation and follow other safety precautions given all the hazardous chemicals and flammable gases and vapors contained within confining spaces in plants and refineries or a dangerous fire or explosion could result.
  7. Ergonomic-related injuries. Workers can suffer back injuries, spinal injuries, and muscles strains and sprains when lifting heavy items, working in awkward positions, and performing repetitive tasks.
  8. Electrical hazards. When the electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, and other sources of electrical energy in plants and refineries are not designed, installed, or maintained properly, workers can be exposed to dangerous levels of electricity, causing them to suffer electrical burns and other life-threatening injuries or death.

Eight Injuries Employees Suffer in Plant and Refinery Accidents

Because of the heavy machinery, hazardous chemicals, and extremely flammable liquids and gases at plants and refineries, a workplace accident can escalate into a life-threatening emergency and cause employees to suffer catastrophic injuries. Common injuries they could suffer include:

  • Crushing injuries. With all the heavy machinery in plants and refineries, employees can easily be crushed between two heavy machines or get trapped when flying debris falls on them in an explosion. They can suffer broken bones, internal organ damage, head and brain injuries, or death.
  • Severe burns. Given the highly flammable substances and high-heat equipment employees work with, there are plenty of dangers of a fire starting that can quickly escalate into a raging, difficult-to-put out fire that causes workers to suffer serious burns, scars, and disfigurement as well as emotional trauma from the ordeal.
  • Lung injuries. Even with federal regulations on emissions, workers are exposed daily to harmful emissions as well as to breathing in hazardous chemicals and fumes. This can cause them to develop respiratory problems and lung diseases.
  • Toxic exposure. Workers in plants and refineries must work with and around many toxic substances, such as sulfuric acid, sulfur dioxide, and hydrofluoric acid. Exposure to acute toxic chemicals for a short period of time can cause serious damage. Employees can develop many life-threatening health problems like cancer, lung diseases, neurological disorders, burns, shock, and death.
  • Loss of hearing. The extreme noise levels in plants and refineries can cause workers to suffer hearing loss over time. In addition, they could experience permanent damage to their hearing in a sudden, loud explosion.
  • Traumatic brain injury. Having debris fall onto a worker in an explosion, being crushed between heavy machines, or falling from a height are just a few of the ways employees can suffer traumatic brain injury—a life-altering condition that could result in their permanent disability.

If you or a family member was injured in a plant or refinery workplace accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your lost wages and medical bills from your employer under New Jersey’s workers’ compensation. Start an online chat today to schedule a free consultation.

Manfred Ricciardelli
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Morristown Workers' Compensation Lawyer