Industrial Plant Accidents and Workers' Comp

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Industrial plant accidents include chemical spills, leaks, explosions, machinery malfunctions, electrical failures and fires. They can have catastrophic or even fatal effects for the workers in the plant, as well as residents in the surrounding areas.

The world’s worst industrial plant accident occurred in Bhopal, India in 1984 when a Union Carbide chemical plant released at least 30 tons of toxic gas into the air. An estimated 4,000 people were fatally injured at the time of the accident, with as many as 15,000 people dying over the years from the effects of exposure to the poison gas.

An industrial plant accident that leads to
a chemical leak, such as the one in Bhopal, can create a similar toxic vapor cloud the size of which will depend on weather and wind conditions. It could also release flammable chemicals and form a flammable vapor cloud that can drift into an ignition source causing an explosion. Explosions often result in objects being turned into projectiles which can cause considerable damage to structures and people. Damaged structures can then collapse causing further destruction and injury.

Other types of explosions occur due to over pressure in boilers, but can also take place when a container holding pressurized flammable liquid experiences structural failure. Gas explosions can happen from a combination of gas leaks and electrical malfunction that causes sparks that ignite the gas, or from gas tank defects.

Workers in the oil and gas industry, mining, chemical plants, paint factories, and power plants are at higher risk for industrial plant accidents. The combination of toxic chemicals, complex machinery, and lax safety programs can create the unsafe conditions that lead to fatal accidents.

The following are common contributing factors in industrial plant accidents:
- Improper storage of hazardous materials
- Inadequate ventilation
- Removing safety guards
- Failure to inspect and maintain equipment
- Failure to provide training for plant workers
- Improper use of tools and equipment that lead to electrical sparks
- Working at unsafe speeds

Injuries from industrial accidents that are not fatal can range from burns and lacerations, or broken bones to blindness, hearing loss, and other disabilities. Workers exposed to toxic chemicals and carcinogens may develop occupational illnesses or diseases such as respiratory ailments or cancer. Treatment for injuries related to an industrial accident may involve hospital treatments or surgery and require extensive rehabilitation afterward.

If you have been injured in a work-related industrial plant accident, you can file for Workers’ Compensation benefits. If your claim is successful you can expect to receive some or all of the following benefits:

- Medical care – including hospitalization, medications, orthopedic appliances, and prostheses.
Wage loss benefits – whether you are completely disabled and unable to perform your job, or partially disabled and receiving less pay than before your accident.

- Job training if you are unable to return to your line of work because of your injuries.

- Specific loss benefits – these are paid for loss of permanent use of all or part of a leg, foot, toe, thumb, finger, arm, hand, arm, sight, or hearing. There is also compensation available for serious and permanent disfigurement of the head, neck, or face.

Moreover, third-party claims can be made for industrial plant accidents caused by equipment failure or defects. Families that have lost a loved one to an industrial accident can pursue death benefits and are advised to consult with an experienced Workers’ Compensation lawyer who has dealt with industrial accident cases.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jeffrey S. Gross
As a partner with Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, firm Batt & Gross, Jeffrey S. Gross has represented injured workers in the Philadelphia area since 1991. He focuses exclusively on Workers’ Compensation litigation, including subrogation matters, full and partial disability claims, lump sum settlements, occupational diseases and workplace fatalities, and he has a long record of success aggressively pursuing the best interests of his clients.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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