Louisiana Officials Crack Down on Oil Tank Safety Following Fatal Explosion

by | Dec 6, 2023 | Oil and Gas Accident, Oil and Gas Incidents, Oil Refinery Injuries, Personal Injury, Refinery Explosions, Safety, Workplace Explosion, Workplace Safety

The oil and gas industry is a crucial sector that fuels various aspects of our daily lives. However, the infrastructure supporting this industry, including oil tanks, presents significant hazards to those who live and work in proximity to these structures. One tragic example of such hazards was a fatal explosion in 2021 that killed a teenager who was sitting on an abandoned oil tank. Officials say that oil tank safety standards in Louisiana are lacking, and are calling for more safety precautions and oversight.

Incidents that cause injuries or death highlight hazards and safety standards in the oil and gas industry across the U.S. At Kherkher Garcia, we have helped numerous individuals and families affected by injuries and deaths involving the oil and gas industry. Below, our oil and gas injury lawyers provide insight into the hazards of oil tanks, the importance of oil tank safety, and offer support for victims and their families.

Oil Tank Safety Questioned after Fatal Explosion

On February 28, 2021, 14-year-old Zalee Gail Day-Smith was tragically killed in an oil tank explosion near Ragley, Louisiana. Day-Smith was reportedly sitting on one of the tanks when it exploded. The force of the blast threw her hundreds of feet into the air, killing her instantly.

State Police investigators believe that Day-Smith and other teenagers were exploring the abandoned oil tanks before the explosion. The tanks were located on private property and had been decommissioned for several years. However, they still contained flammable liquids and posed a significant safety hazard.

The explosion sent a shockwave through the community and sparked outrage over the lack of safety measures in place. Day-Smith’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the owner of the property, and the incident led to calls for stricter regulations on abandoned oil and gas infrastructure.

In December 2022, the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) proposed new rules that would require owners of abandoned oil and gas infrastructure to take steps to prevent similar tragedies. These rules include fencing off the property, posting warning signs, and properly decommissioning the equipment. The DNR estimated as many as 1,400 sites would need updated safety measures.

Consequences of Negligent Oil Tank Safety

From potential environmental risks to direct health and safety concerns, understanding the hazards of oil tanks is imperative for the wellbeing of those nearby, as well as the surrounding environment. Those most at risk for oil tank-related injuries are those who work or live nearby. As the story above highlights, however, there are also risks to public safety. Some of the most pressing oil tank safety concerns include:

Fire and Explosion Risks

One of the primary hazards of being near oil tanks is the risk of fire and explosion. Oil tanks contain highly flammable substances, such as crude oil or petroleum products. Any ignition source, such as sparks from welding, electrical equipment failure, or even static electricity, can lead to a catastrophic fire or explosion. These incidents endanger the lives of those nearby, and can also cause severe damage to the surroundings, which can cause property destruction and environmental pollution.

Toxic Fumes and Health Hazards

Another significant risk associated with working or living near oil tanks is exposure to toxic fumes and hazardous chemicals. Many substances stored in these tanks emit harmful gases and vapors, including benzene, hydrogen sulfide, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Prolonged exposure to these chemicals can lead to respiratory problems, skin irritation, neurological issues, and in severe cases, even long-term health complications or fatalities.

Structural Integrity and Collapse

The structural integrity of oil tanks is crucial for ensuring the safety of those nearby. Over time, corrosion, poor maintenance, or external factors can compromise the structural stability of these tanks, leading to leaks, spills, explosions, or even tank collapse. A collapsing tank poses a severe risk to anyone in the vicinity, potentially causing injuries, fatalities, and significant environmental damage due to the release of its contents.

Environmental Impact

The spillage or leakage from oil tanks can result in severe environmental repercussions. Contamination of soil, groundwater, and nearby water bodies can occur, leading to long-lasting ecological damage. Aquatic life, vegetation, and ecosystems can suffer irreparable harm from oil spills, impacting biodiversity and disrupting the balance of natural habitats.

What are Common Injuries Associated with Oil Tank Incidents?

Incidents involving oil tanks can result in various types of injuries, ranging from minor to severe, and can have both immediate and long-term consequences for those involved. Some common injuries associated with oil tank incidents include:

Burns and Scalds

Fires and explosions are significant hazards near oil tanks due to the highly flammable nature of the substances they contain. Workers or individuals in proximity to an oil tank during an explosion or fire can suffer burns and scalds of varying degrees, from minor to severe. These injuries can cause damage to the skin, underlying tissues, and even internal organs, leading to prolonged recovery periods and potential long-term complications.

Respiratory Problems

Exposure to toxic fumes, gases, or vapors released from oil tanks can result in respiratory issues. Inhaling substances like benzene, hydrogen sulfide, or other volatile organic compounds can cause breathing difficulties, coughing, irritation of the respiratory tract, and in severe cases, long-term respiratory complications.

Chemical Exposure Injuries

Contact with hazardous chemicals stored in oil tanks can lead to skin irritation, chemical burns, or dermatitis. Direct skin contact with substances like crude oil or petroleum products can cause rashes, redness, blistering, and in some instances, more severe skin conditions or allergic reactions.

Traumatic Injuries

Structural failures or collapses of oil tanks can cause traumatic injuries such as fractures, crush injuries, or lacerations. The force generated during a tank collapse or related incidents can result in physical trauma to workers or individuals in the vicinity, leading to severe injuries that may require immediate medical attention.

Head Injuries and Concussions

In situations where debris or objects are propelled during tank explosions or collapses, head injuries, concussions, or traumatic brain injuries can occur. These injuries can have serious long-term consequences and may require extensive medical treatment and rehabilitation.

Psychological Impact

Oil tank incidents, especially those involving explosions or severe injuries, can have a profound psychological impact on individuals involved or witnesses. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and other mental health issues can arise due to the traumatic nature of these incidents.

It is important to note that the severity of injuries in oil tank incidents can vary based on multiple factors, including the nature of the incident, the substances involved, safety precautions taken, and the proximity of individuals to the event.

Oil Tank Safety Precautions and Risk Mitigation

To minimize the hazards associated with working or living near oil tanks, stringent safety measures and protocols must be implemented. Some of the most important oil tank safety strategies include:

  • Training and Education: Proper training programs should be provided to workers, focusing on hazard awareness, emergency procedures, and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Regular Inspections and Maintenance: Routine inspections of oil tanks are vital to identify and address any structural weaknesses or signs of corrosion promptly. Regular maintenance helps ensure the tanks remain in optimal condition, reducing the risk of leaks or failures.
  • Use of Protective Gear: Workers near oil tanks must use appropriate PPE, including respiratory masks, gloves, and protective clothing, to minimize exposure to hazardous substances.
  • Fire Prevention and Control Measures: Implementing fire prevention measures, such as fire-resistant coatings, fire extinguishers, and proper firefighting equipment, is crucial to mitigate the risk of fires and explosions.
  • Environmental Contingency Plans: Developing comprehensive plans for responding to oil spills or leaks is essential to contain and mitigate the environmental impact promptly.
  • Safe Working Distances: Establishing safe distances between work areas and oil tanks helps reduce the risk to workers in case of structural failure or unexpected incidents.

Working or living near oil tanks (or exploring abandoned oil tanks) poses inherent dangers that require strict adherence to safety protocols and proactive risk management strategies. Vigilance, education, and a commitment to safety are fundamental in mitigating these hazards and promoting a safer environment for all involved, or in close proximity to, oil tanks.

How can a Lawyer Support Victims of Oil Tank Incidents?

At Kherkher Garcia, our goal is to provide effective legal representation alongside the support that victims and families need to recover. Here are some of the ways that our oil and gas injury lawyers support victims of oil tank incidents:

Legal Counsel and Advice

Our lawyers offer legal guidance and explain your legal rights. We will advise you on the legal options available, including potential compensation, insurance claims, or legal actions that can be pursued against responsible parties.

Investigation and Evidence Gathering

Our team will conduct a thorough investigation into the incident that caused your injuries or loss. We will determine liability and gather evidence to support your case. This includes obtaining witness statements, reviewing accident reports, examining safety records, and consulting experts to strengthen the case.

Representation in Legal Proceedings

Our lawyers represent you in negotiations with insurance companies, government agencies, or in court proceedings if a lawsuit is filed. We advocate for your rights and fight to ensure fair compensation. We have successfully recovered compensation for victims including medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages resulting from the incident.

Navigating Complex Legal Procedures

Dealing with legal matters related to oil tank incidents involves navigating complex laws and regulations. The lawyers at Kherkher Garcia have decades of experience in personal injury and environmental law. We help victims understand and navigate these complexities.

Negotiation and Settlement

Our lawyers will negotiate with responsible parties or their insurance companies in an effort to reach a settlement that adequately compensates you for your losses. We strive to obtain fair compensation without having to go through a lengthy trial process, if possible.

Advocacy for Policy Changes

In cases where negligence or inadequate safety measures contributed to the incident, our lawyers are empowered to advocate for policy changes or stricter regulations to prevent similar accidents in the future. This advocacy may involve working with lawmakers, regulatory agencies, or industry stakeholders.

Emotional Support and Guidance

Kherkher Garcia’s lawyers often provide support beyond legal matters. Our entire team is committed to empathy, understanding, and emotional support to victims and their families as they navigate the challenges and complexities of the legal process.

In sum, the oil and gas injury lawyers at Kherkher Garcia serve as advocates for victims of oil tank incidents. We are dedicated to ensuring that your rights are protected and that you receive the compensation and support you deserve.

 Get The Support You Need after an Oil Tank Incident

If you or someone you love is injured, or has been killed, due to an oil tank incident, Kherkher Garcia can help. We can provide the legal representation and support that you need to protect your rights and pursue the justice and compensation that you deserve.

Find out how we can help you by contacting us for a free consultation. You can reach us by calling 713-333-1030, or by completing our contact form.

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Kevin Haynes

Kevin Haynes

Firm Partner and Trial Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Injury Trial Lawyer and Firm Partner Kevin Haynes. Kevin has been a practicing injury lawyer for more than 15 years. He has won $150 Million+ in Settlements and Verdicts for his clients. Kevin is powerful and effective 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.

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