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Two factory explosions kill workers, injure others

A pair of factory explosions that occurred at two factories within a few miles of each other have together left three workers dead and several others recovering from serious injuries.

Both cases involved chemical plants. In the most recent incident, workers were pumping nitrogen from a truck into an unspecified container. While the container was supposed to be able to handle the pressure of the rapidly expanding gas, the container malfunctioned. As a result, the gas exploded out of the container with a powerful shock, tossing people from their feet and scattering debris. Authorities described the damage to the area near the explosion as "horrific".

Authorities are still investigating the cause of this fatal factory accident; however, this is not the first time that there has been a deadly explosion at this fertilizer plant. A little more than ten years ago, an explosion at the same factory killed three workers and injured others. Interestingly, a subsequent OSHA investigation uncovered violations of safety standards. Ultimately, the factory did not contest the $150,000 fine that OSHA imposed in connection with 14 noted safety violations, 12 of which were serious.

In the wake of the massive fertilizer plant explosion in Texas a few weeks ago, Arizona workers and others are probably particularly sensitive to industrial accidents that involve explosions such as the ones described in this story. While employers should take every possible step to ensure employee safety, it is unfortunate that at least in some industries, periodic explosions will be a fact of life.

While it would be ideal if employers protected their workers from dangerous explosions in the first place, the beauty of Arizona's workers' compensation system is that it is available for nearly all workers. If those workers become victims of an industrial explosion, even if the explosion itself is purely an accident or even partially the worker's fault, then they will be covered by their employer's workers' compensation plan. For those who have the misfortune of being injured at work because of an explosion, compensation may therefore be available to cover that person's medical expenses and lost wages.

Source: The Commercial Appeal, "Police: 1 dead, 7 hurt in new Louisiana plant blast," June 14, 2013

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