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Texas Refinery Explosion Draws Attention to Limited OSHA Resources as Factor Preceding Tragedy

Health & Wellness  (tags: business, consumers, corporate, labor, law, money, politics, society, usa, safety, risks, protection, warning, prevention, humans, health, children, death, ethics, government )

- 1884 days ago -
In the past five years, only two Texas facilities in the same classification - that produce fertilizer using ammonia - have been inspected by OSHA, records show. The agency, with a budget of roughly $568 million, lacks the resources to regularly inspect

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JL A (281)
Sunday April 21, 2013, 4:07 pm

Texas refinery explosion draws attention to limited OSHA resources as factor preceding tragedy

By: Keith Wrightson

The West Fertilizer Company facility that exploded in a deadly blast Wednesday evening had not been inspected by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in at least 10 years. While we leave it to investigators to determine what exactly happened, we already know that this facility and ones like it operate with very little oversight, and that this is a problem.

Records show that the facility in West, Texas, owned by Adair Grain Incorporated, has not been inspected by OSHA in the past 10 years.

In the past five years, only two Texas facilities in the same classification – that produce fertilizer using ammonia – have been inspected by OSHA, records show. The agency, with a budget of roughly $568 million, lacks the resources to regularly inspect these types of facilities, including the many with high danger levels. Often facilities do not see an inspector for decades at a time.

While OSHA’s budget had increased slightly in the past several years, it was recently reduced yet again by budget sequestration, which means fewer inspectors to monitor facilities like the West Fertilizer Company. Small budgets also make it even harder for the agency to issue new safety standards. The agency’s budget is similar to what it was several decades ago, but the size of the economy – and the number and complexity of workplaces to inspect – has grown tremendously.

Though total occupational deaths are far lower today than they were decades ago, more than 4,000 workers still die every year on the job in the United States, most in incidents that could have been prevented. Last night’s tragic explosion in Texas is a reminder of the work still ahead to make our nation’s workplaces safer.

Devoting only a miniscule portion of our budget to protecting workers is a policy choice – and it’s the wrong one.

Keith Wrightson is Public Citizen’s workplace safety expert.

Angelika R (143)
Sunday April 21, 2013, 6:03 pm
Yep, another of so many wrong choices in budget.. a SHAME . Life of workers is simply not valued any longer..
tears and words of regret and sympathy are cheap!

Kit B (276)
Sunday April 21, 2013, 7:09 pm

Interesting I read that OSHA had not inspected this plant with on sight inspections in 30 years, which is about when our government began the process of making all regulatory agencies irrelevant. Here the news did bring up an old accident in Texas City where two ships delivering fertilizer blew up and killed many in the explosions (about 60 years ago). I guess it is just a fact, we never learn and history is quickly forgotten.

And just for you, J L ....ya can't fix stupid.

JL A (281)
Sunday April 21, 2013, 7:21 pm
Too true Kit, too true. CA has its own CAL-OSHA to remedy some of the deficits--including government agencies exempt from federal OSHA. It gets our construction accident investigations, too. You cannot currently send a star to Kit because you have done so within the last day.

Terry V (30)
Sunday April 21, 2013, 8:00 pm
We are being consumed by GREED

JL A (281)
Sunday April 21, 2013, 8:06 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Terry because you have done so within the last day.

paul m (93)
Monday April 22, 2013, 4:48 am

Good Post... Why the lack of safty ? and where else will this happen ? Need workers / people to report areas
that might be a " Ticking Time Bomb " just as a safty exercise.

cecily w (0)
Monday April 22, 2013, 5:25 am

The above link is a summary of OSHA's policies on user fees. This is where the answer lies.

Bill K (0)
Monday April 22, 2013, 5:52 am
Limited OSHA resources. Texas politicians. Hmmmmm

JL A (281)
Monday April 22, 2013, 8:42 am
Thanks for providing the "follow the money trail" information Cecily.
You cannot currently send a star to paul because you have done so within the last day.

Past Member (0)
Monday April 22, 2013, 8:55 am
Irresponsibility by politicians

JL A (281)
Monday April 22, 2013, 2:13 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Carol because you have done so within the last day.

Birgit W (160)
Monday April 22, 2013, 3:52 pm

Theodore Shayne (56)
Monday April 22, 2013, 3:52 pm
It's what happens when you cut corners for the sake of a buck.

Linda h (86)
Monday April 22, 2013, 6:09 pm
Not a right wing idiot or Libertarian in sight here. I wonder why? Where's the "Let business self inspect themselves. They know best!" crowd?

James E (16)
Monday April 22, 2013, 6:41 pm
OSHA, the much despised, often ridiculed agency, that has saved many lives over the years. One of those agencies that the GOP/TP crowd would defund and disband if they could. Of course Gov. Rick Perry brags about the lack of government regulations in “business friendly Texas.” Unfortunately business friendly does not always translate to employee friendly/worker.

While the OSHA situation is serious, I hope action is taken regarding the owner. After all, he was apparently storing something like 1,350 times the amount of ammonia nitrate required to be reported to DHS, and was not. Why?

Katrina & Willi D (90)
Monday April 22, 2013, 9:07 pm
Many accidents happen due to the dangerous items in the workplace! In the stockrooms things are overhead and fall right on you! the companies don't do anything about it! If you are injured tough! Ladders that are not safe the companies expect you to use! The work you do needs ladder to get up to do it! Very Scarey! Even in some Groceries look up and see big jugs on the top shelves some don't even have lids on! Now how are you going to reach up and get it?? I have even seen bleach overhead!! Last time I was at the grocery there was a lady that wanted choc chips and marshmallows both were on the top shelf, she was very luck a taller woman came by we could not reach what she wanted. Not good sales set-up!

JL A (281)
Monday April 22, 2013, 9:11 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Bill and Katie because you have done so within the last day.

reft h (66)
Monday April 22, 2013, 11:40 pm
Couldn't corporate CEO's donate a little money to the cause of safe work sites for their workers? They could forgo a Ferrari or 2 to finance it perhaps...

Patricia H. (440)
Tuesday April 23, 2013, 12:43 am

Past Member (0)
Tuesday April 23, 2013, 1:16 am
Once again, 25 years in consulting tells me throwing money at something does not solve the problem.

paul m (93)
Tuesday April 23, 2013, 6:12 am


JL A (281)
Tuesday April 23, 2013, 7:59 am
The research and evaluation shows that funding sufficient inspections creates desired results so it wouldn't be throwing money at the problem to adequately fund OSHA inspections.

Lloyd H (46)
Tuesday April 23, 2013, 8:06 am
Thanks, with two caveats, again this article like others completely fails in making the distinction between OSHA-US and OSHA-TX, and to be totally accurate it has been 28 years since OSHA-US inspected the West plant. With OSHA-US having only 2,200 inspectors for 6,000,000,000(yes that is Millions) factories to inspect that means that it takes at least 129 YEARS for each plant to be re-inspected. The other problem, the West Plant like many other "fertilizer plants" are not actually fertilizer plants they were and still are Military Explosives Plants. Ammonium Nitrate is a military grade explosive, it was designed and created as a military explosive and is still used as an explosive or the component in other more dangerous explosives. It was discovered by accident that Ammonium Nitrate was a great fertilizer and at the end of WWII in order to not have to moth ball the Ammonium Nitrate and lose the munitions production capacity they began selling for profit the stuff around the world, at first only to our allies then to every one who could pay. The fact that OSHA-TX through what can only be called criminal negligence allowed the West Plant owners to actually claim, and get away with, that there was no danger of fire or explosions when Texas has know quite vividly since the 1947 Explosion in Texas City, Texas of a freighter full of Amonium Nitrate that destroyed nearly all of the city, killed at least 581, the count is higher but many were either incinerated or blown to bits and could not be counted, including the entire Fire Department except one. It is still rated as one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in World history and is still the worst indusrial disaster in American history. They knew better.

Lois Jordan (63)
Tuesday April 23, 2013, 4:30 pm
Thanks, JL.
Both James E. & LLOYD H. have given some important facts. I can only add that West Fertilizer never told the Dept. of Homeland Security it was well over the's required to do that. So, I'm assuming we're not even working with inspectors here because of "new" laws of self-regulation the GOP loves to pieces. So, we can all see how well THAT'S working out. Time to pressure the E.P.A. to fund more regulators, and Congress to insure oversight & accountability--at the very least!

JL A (281)
Tuesday April 23, 2013, 4:35 pm
You are welcome Lois. You cannot currently send a star to Lois because you have done so within the last day.
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