It is important for companies, particularly those that store and use hazardous materials, to have adequate safety measures in place. It is perhaps equally important for property owners and employers to have accident contingency plans and to understand and rehearse such plans so that all employees and others on their premises understand what to do in an emergency.
A recent industrial accident in Pennsylvania that resulted in a minor injury to a worker serves as a reminder of this. The explosion, which happened at a plant, destroyed one building and damaged five others at the plant site.
The presence of dangerous chemicals at the location triggered an investigation by multiple state and federal government agencies, and while negligence has not been cited as a cause of the accident, it is not clear whether this has been ruled out either. There is no indication yet whether the injured worker will pursue a legal claim.
The fact that the accident investigators checked to confirm not only the existence of legally required emergency response plans at the factory, but also whether drills of those plans had been undertaken, is but one consideration that could be relevant in a consideration of civil liability in cases like this.
This instance brings to the forefront the importance of emergency plans and drills for companies that store and use dangerous chemicals. When workers or others are injured in fires or explosions, companies may be held responsible depending on the circumstances of the accident. The owners and operators of industrial sites have a legal duty to ensure they are not jeopardizing anyone’s safety.
Source: Olean Times Herald, “International Wax fire ruled accidental,” Colin Deppen, May 7, 2014