Texas City Explosions

| October 26, 2015

Texas City explosions tend to happen in larger scales. The explosion in 1947 resulted in mass amounts of damage along with loss of life. Finding the root cause is important so that we can adjust our safety practices to prevent such a loss from happening again. In the case of the explosion in 1947, it was found that the root cause was human error in smoking near volatile commodities. Due to the date of that explosion and limited resources for data collection coupled with the lack of Health, Safety, and Environmental procedures you can see that this explosion was almost unavoidable. There wasn’t a separation in commodity like there is now and a lack of hazmat policies that requires the special care and transportation of these items either. Unfortunately even with the new standards set in place, there is no absence of explosions in the great state of Texas. With every accident, comes an investigation that will lead to finding the root cause. Along with that will be a new written standard on how to work in environments that seem to be combustible. In recent times, the explosions seem to stay in the oil and gas industry as they deal with a commodity that is used to power everything.
There have been multiple explosions in Texas City dating back as early as April 16, 1947. The explosions in 1947 and 2013 were both caused by the improper storage of ammonium nitrate. These two explosions claimed the lives of nearly 600 people and injured hundreds. On March 23, 2005, an explosion also took place at British Petroleum in Texas City killing 15 workers and injured over 170 when a hydrocarbon vapor exploded at the isomerization process.
The original explosion on April 16, 1947 claimed the lives of 576 people. It was important for the experts to research the accident so that they could understand why it occurred and more importantly implement new ordinances to help avoid any further explosions to avoid injuring or killing any more people. As a result of the investigation and the action plan that was implemented in 1947, there were no further explosions with ammonium nitrate in Texas City for over sixty years. After the explosion on April 17th, 2013, it was discovered that OSHA had done their last inspection at this particular ammonium nitrate plant in 1985, twenty-three years earlier. During their inspection, the plant was fined a nominal fee for improper storage of the hazardous product and, unfortunately, there was no further follow up to ensure they had complied to proper storage guidelines. After the explosion, there was a full investigation, which included interviewing over 300 employees. During the investigation, it was determined that the ammonium nitrate was stored improperly however they never could determine what exactly caused the fire that led to the explosion. Had OSHA continued with regular inspections of this plant, the inspectors may have been able to identify this hazard and address the issue in advance and this explosion possibly may have been avoided?
The explosion at the BP refinery was caused by organizational and safety issues at all levels of the BP Corporation. Warning signs of a possible disaster was present for several years. Company officials unfortunately did not intervene effectively to prevent it. The investigation concluded that there were technical issues, miscalculations by engineers, missed signals by employees with wrong switches being pulled, along with managers that failed to listen and made bad decisions. BP commented that the budget cuts in 1999 and 2005 were the reason that BP did not repair faulty equipment, train employees and had to downsize staffing, which ultimately led to the catastrophic event. OSHA’s enforcement at the BP Texas City refinery was also examined. In the years prior to the incident OSHA conducted several inspections, primarily to investigate fatalities at the refinery. During those investigations, OSHA did not identify anything that would lead to a catastrophic event.
After the 2005 explosion, the key business objectives were to conduct a full investigation and identify and execute an action plan to help prevent further disasters. The investigation uncovered 301 egregious willful violations for which BP paid a $21 million fine, the largest ever issued by OSHA in its 35-year history. During the investigation, OSHA discovered that the raffinate splitter tower in the refinery’s ISOM unit was restarted after a maintenance outage. During the startup, operations personnel pumped flammable liquids into the tower for over three hours without liquids being removed. The 15 employees that were killed were in or around temporary trailers that were in the surrounding area of the explosion. OSHA previously cited BP to remove people in temporary trailers within 121 feet of the operation. If BP complied on the previous citation, these 15 employees would possibly be alive today. OSHA also determined that there was a lack of supervision and trained personnel during the startup. Operators were likely fatigued from working 12-hour shifts for 29 or more consecutive days.
Questions that must be researched the problem with Texas City business research. We understand that more and more industry explosions are happening in the United States. Our team research has been on Texas City and we think because it is one of Houston’s outskirt city, it is important that we stay abreast to the happenings.
When did the accidents occur in Texas? On April 16, 1947 a massive explosion took place in the port of t Texas City! The first in the United States located in the state of Texas and April 17, 2013 the last explosion in Texas City Texas. When was the explosion and what caused it? It appears regarding the very first explosion: On April 16th, 1947 a massive explosion took place in the port of Texas City when a ship exploded that was filled with Ammonium Nitrate. The fire began while the ship was being loaded with pallets containing bags of fertilizer.
Who did it affect the shipped burned for so long that onlookers began to gather to watch the orange balls of smoke. Soon after, the ship with 2,300 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded killing approximately 576 people and leveled 1,000 buildings in the city. It was the worst industrial accident in history. Meteors streaked across the sky and could be seen for miles across Galveston Bay as melted ship rubbish erupted out of the dock. The explosion caused a fifteen-foot tidal wave that crashed into the pier and swamped the surrounding area. Windows were shattered in a now fourth largest city in the country, Houston, located 40 miles to the north, and citizens in the state of Louisiana felt the shock 250 miles away. Most of the buildings closest to the blast destroyed to the ground, and there were many more that had doors and roofs removed due to the catastrophe. The Monsanto plant, only three hundred feet away, was demolished by the blast.
How can explosions be prevented? Many of these guidelines had been relaxed after World War II. One of these precautions, no smoking, seems to be the source of the fire that
caused the explosion. Business research would have been helpful in establishing safe practices when controlling such a dangerous material (TSHA, 2010).
Why were there not more safety guidelines and are there any now? In 2015 the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board released a report citing improper storage and handling of hazardous materials. It was determined that the fire and explosion were preventable. One year later the media announced that fertilizer storage regulations remained unchanged in the United States. The local Texas legislature took swift action and three bills were implemented in 2015 regulating the storage and inspection of ammonium nitrate and a fourth bill was implemented to create a statewide notification when there is a hazard at a chemical or manufacturing facility.
Thomas Jones section- not submitted
The major factor affecting the tragedy of the Texas City explosions is not something that could have been solved with business research. The main problem is a combination of greed and poor ethical business practices. The captain of the ship made the decision to not allow the burning hold of the ship to be flooded to stop the fire. This is seemingly because of fear that water would destroy the cargo. This is an example of a poor decision fueled by poor business ethics. It is the responsibility of the business to ensure that its needs do not exceed the needs of the community (2015).
The business was successively going for a big turnover in earnings and forgot about workers’ safety. There were not enough rules set in place for an understanding of what can happen. Possibly it was adequate in order to make a choice whether to pay more money for safety or to deal with a fine later on. Management definitely has researched the calculations on how much it will cost to pay fines, hurt workers and the costly price it will be for the loss of life in case of an explosion. As continually we see with companies like this, without and ethical filter, it was much easier to disregard all the safety issues, and to just anticipate that nothing bad happens.
The Chemical Safety Board’s investigation recommended that budget cuts analytically influenced on the safe operations at the processing plant, and that its administrators did not deliver competent guidance, as well misjudged the significance of monitoring main risks.
For this reason, many companies establish ethics departments that address concerns so that the company can address the needs of all stakeholders. It is ethical to maintain a company that deals with chemicals and materials that are potentially dangerous to the public to not provide proper education to its workers (2015).

As we grow in all industries we see an ever changing and unstable commodity that we look to control. Accidents seem to happen but as long as our companies that are responsible for these situations gather the proper data and make the necessary changes, the result will be a long and prosperous time of safety. Though no one can prevent these from happening, companies can continue to train their staff and ensure that the proper contingencies are set in place in case it does.

Investigation Report Refinery Explosion and Fire. (2007). Retrieved from http://www.csb.gov

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