Investigators are currently working to determine the cause of a plant explosion at Associated Asphalt in Greensboro, North Carolina. The asphalt plant explosion occurred on March 18, 2024 around 3 p.m. Investigators say that the building was evacuated, which prevented any serious injuries. While asphalt plant explosions are considered somewhat uncommon, incidents like this one serve as a reminder that they do occur, and can be devastating.

At Kherkher Garcia, our work injury attorneys have helped numerous clients injured in plant explosions. Incidents like this one can happen anytime, anywhere, and to anyone. It is important for anyone working in an asphalt plant to be aware of the hazards, common causes of explosions, and what they can do to protect their rights if an incident occurs.

What are Some Notable Asphalt Plant Explosions in Recent Years?

Asphalt plant explosions are relatively rare but can have severe consequences when they occur. In addition to the explosion in Greensboro, here are a couple of additional examples of the types of asphalt plant incidents occurring in recent years:

  • Quincy, Massachusetts (2015): In February 2015, an explosion occurred at an asphalt plant in Quincy, Massachusetts. The explosion resulted in a massive fireball and sent debris flying into the air. Fortunately, there were no reported injuries, but the explosion caused significant damage to nearby buildings and vehicles.
  • Houston, Texas (2019): In January 2019, an explosion rocked an asphalt plant in Houston, Texas. The explosion occurred at the Watson Grinding and Manufacturing facility, which also housed an asphalt plant. The blast caused extensive damage to nearby buildings and homes, shattered windows, and displaced residents in the surrounding area. Tragically, two people were killed in the explosion, and numerous others were injured. Investigations into the cause of the explosion revealed that a propylene leak ignited, triggering the blast.

These incidents highlight the importance of implementing stringent safety measures and protocols in asphalt plants to prevent accidents and ensure the safety of workers and nearby communities.

What are Common Causes of Asphalt Plant Explosions?

Asphalt plant explosions can be caused by a variety of factors. It is important for workers to be aware of the causes and how to mitigate the risks. Some of the common causes of explosions include:

  • Combustible Materials: Asphalt plants handle various combustible materials such as bitumen, fuels, and gases. If these materials are not properly stored, handled, or managed, they can ignite and cause explosions.
  • Hot Work: Hot work activities such as welding, cutting, or grinding can trigger explosions. Specifically, when performed in areas where there are combustible dust or vapors.
  • Electrical Issues: Malfunctioning electrical equipment, including wiring, switches, and control panels, can lead to short circuits or sparks, which may ignite flammable materials and cause explosions.
  • Overheating: Overheating of equipment or machinery due to mechanical failures, lack of maintenance, or improper operation can lead to ignition of flammable materials and subsequent explosions.
  • Ignition Sources: External ignition sources such as static electricity, open flames, hot surfaces, or sparks from nearby activities can ignite combustible materials and cause explosions.
  • Improper Ventilation: Inadequate ventilation in processing areas can lead to the accumulation of combustible gases or vapors, increasing the risk of explosions.
  • Chemical Reactions: Certain chemical reactions occurring during the production process, especially when dealing with volatile substances, can generate heat and pressure, leading to explosions.
  • Equipment Failure: Failure or malfunction of equipment such as heaters, boilers, pumps, or storage tanks can result in the release of flammable materials, creating an explosive atmosphere.
  • Human Error: Improper handling of materials, failure to follow safety protocols, inadequate training, and negligence in maintenance procedures can all contribute to the risk of explosions.

To mitigate the risk of explosions, asphalt plants need to implement comprehensive safety measures. Regular risk assessments and inspections can also help identify potential hazards before they lead to incidents.

What are the Hazards of Working in an Asphalt Plant?

Working in an asphalt plant presents several hazards to workers. Plant explosions are only one of the hazards that workers should be aware of. The hazards of working in these facilities can vary depending on the specific processes involved in asphalt production. In addition, the type of equipment used and the level of safety measures can factor into the risks. Some hazards worth noting include:

Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals

Asphalt plants handle various hazardous chemicals such as bitumen, solvents, and additives. Exposure to these chemicals can lead to skin irritation, respiratory issues, and long-term health effects if proper precautions are not taken.

Heat and Burns

Asphalt production involves working with hot materials and equipment, including hot mix asphalt, heated storage tanks, and heating systems. Workers are at risk of burns from direct contact with hot surfaces or materials.

Fires and Explosions

As mentioned earlier, the presence of combustible materials such as bitumen and fuels poses a risk of fires and explosions, especially in the presence of ignition sources or during hot work activities.

Slips, Trips, and Falls

Asphalt plants often have uneven surfaces, slippery areas, and elevated platforms, increasing the risk of slips, trips, and falls, which can lead to injuries such as sprains, fractures, or head injuries.

Crushing and Pinching Hazards

Moving machinery and equipment used in asphalt production, such as conveyors, crushers, and mixers, pose a risk of crushing or pinching injuries if workers come into contact with moving parts or pinch points.

Noise Exposure

Many processes in asphalt plants produce high levels of noise, which can lead to hearing loss or other hearing-related issues if workers are not provided with appropriate hearing protection.

Respiratory Hazards

Exposure to dust, fumes, and vapors generated during asphalt production can cause respiratory problems, including irritation, coughing, and long-term lung damage, especially if proper ventilation and respiratory protection are not provided.

Chemical Spills and Releases

Accidental spills or releases of hazardous chemicals can occur during handling, storage, or transfer operations, posing a risk of environmental contamination and harm to workers if not promptly and properly contained.

Heavy Equipment Operations

Operating heavy machinery and equipment such as loaders, bulldozers, and trucks in the vicinity of asphalt plants carries the risk of accidents, collisions, and crushing injuries if proper safety procedures are not followed.

Ergonomic Hazards

Repetitive tasks, awkward postures, and heavy lifting involved in asphalt production can lead to musculoskeletal disorders such as strains, sprains, and back injuries if ergonomic principles are not addressed.

To mitigate these hazards, employers in asphalt plants should implement comprehensive safety programs that include hazard identification, risk assessment, employee training, use of personal protective equipment (PPE), engineering controls, proper maintenance of equipment, emergency response procedures, and regular safety inspections.

What Can Workers do to Protect Their Rights after an Asphalt Plant Explosion?

After an asphalt plant explosion, workers have several options to protect their rights and seek appropriate recourse. Here are some steps that workers can take:

Seek Medical Attention

The immediate priority for workers injured in an asphalt plant explosion is to seek medical attention. Prompt medical evaluation and treatment are crucial, even for injuries that may initially seem minor. Documenting injuries is important for potential workers’ compensation claims and legal proceedings.

Report the Incident

Workers should report the explosion and any injuries to their employer as soon as possible. Most workplaces have protocols in place for reporting accidents and injuries. Additionally, workers may need to report the incident to relevant authorities, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), particularly if safety violations contributed to the explosion.

Document Everything

It is important for workers to document all aspects of the incident, including their injuries, medical treatment received, and any communication with their employer or authorities. Photographs of the scene, injuries, and damaged equipment or property can be valuable evidence.

Consult with an Attorney

Workers affected by an asphalt plant explosion should consider consulting with an experienced attorney who specializes in workplace accidents. An attorney can provide guidance on legal options, help protect workers’ rights, and represent their interests. Also, an attorney can assist victims in negotiations with employers, insurance companies, or in legal proceedings.

File for Workers’ Compensation

Injured workers may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits to cover medical expenses, lost wages, and disability benefits. Workers should file a workers’ compensation claim promptly following the incident. An attorney can assist with navigating the workers’ compensation process and advocating for the maximum benefits available.

Pursue Legal Action

In cases where negligence or safety violations contributed to the asphalt plant explosion, workers may have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit against responsible parties. Parties may include the employer, equipment manufacturers, or third-party contractors. An attorney can assess the circumstances of the explosion and advise on the viability of pursuing legal action.

Participate in Investigations

Workers may be asked to participate in investigations conducted by regulatory agencies, such as OSHA, or by independent investigators hired by their employer or other parties involved. Cooperating with these investigations can help uncover the causes of the explosion and identify areas for improving workplace safety.

Protect Against Retaliation

Workers have legal protections against retaliation for reporting workplace accidents or injuries, participating in investigations, or filing claims for workers’ compensation. If workers experience retaliation or discrimination as a result of exercising their rights, they should document the incidents and consult with an attorney to pursue appropriate legal action.

By taking these steps, workers affected by an asphalt plant explosion can protect their rights, seek compensation for their injuries and losses, and contribute to improving safety in the workplace to prevent future incidents.

Contact a Workplace Injury Attorney after a Plant Explosion

If you or a loved one has been affected by a devastating plant explosion, you likely have many questions and a great deal of stress. You don’t have to navigate the aftermath of a traumatic incident alone. At Kherkher Garcia, our workplace injury attorneys are here to help you understand your rights, pursue compensation, and hold responsible parties accountable.

Whether you have suffered injuries, lost wages, or need assistance with navigating the complex legal process, we are dedicated to providing compassionate support and fierce advocacy on your behalf. Take the first step towards justice and contact us for a free consultation. You can contact our team by calling 713-333-1030, or by submitting our online contact form.

Kherkher Garcia assists clients with all manner of workplace injuries, including plant explosions, offshore injuries, defective product injuries, chemical injuries, and more.





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Jesus Garcia

Jesus Garcia

Founding Partner and Trial Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Injury Trial Lawyer and Founding Firm Partner Jesus Garcia. Jesus has been a practicing injury lawyer for more than 20 years. He has won $150 Million+ in Settlements and Verdicts for his clients. He is a force of nature in the courtroom and the trial lawyer you want on your side if you or a loved one have been seriously injured at work or on the road. Abogado Jesus Garcia is bilingual and passionate about being the voice in the courtroom for the spanish speaking community here in Houston, across the state of Texas, and throughout the Nation.

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