An explosion at the Chemours plant in Belle, WV earlier this week resulted in a fire that prompted a temporary shelter in place order for residents within a 2-mile radius of the plant. Route 60 was also closed between Campbell’s Creek and the Chelyan Bridge because of the incident. The explosion left several people injured, including two plant workers, and one person was killed.
Officials originally thought the explosion was caused by a barge in the Kanawha River next to the plant, but it was later determined that the blasts came from within the plant. Officials now believe that chlorinated dry bleach and methanol were the chemicals involved in the explosion, but the exact cause is still under investigation.
In the coming days and weeks, the explosion will be thoroughly investigated by OSHA and the US Chemical Safety Board (CSB). The CSB conducts root cause investigations of chemical accidents at fixed industrial facilities like the Chemours plant in Belle. As part of their investigation, they typically conduct detailed interviews with witnesses, examine and test chemical samples and equipment obtained from the plant, and review plant safety records and operating procedures.
Possible Reasons for the Chemours Plant Explosion
At Bailey, Javins, and Carter, we have handled numerous West Virginia explosion cases over the years, including the Midland Resource Recovery Plant explosion (2017), the Sago Mine explosion (2006), the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion (2010), and the Little General Store explosion (2007). We have extensive knowledge of the complexities involved with these types of cases and the various factors that are most likely to cause or contribute to these explosions.
Some of the most common reasons for explosions at chemical plants and other industrial jobsites include:
- Combustible Powders: Dust and similar powders is one of the biggest causes of fires and explosions in chemical manufacturing. Many types of materials that are not fire risks as large pieces can become combustible when they are converted into powder form. Combustible dust incidents often result in multiple explosions, and it should be noted that there were reportedly three separate blasts at the Chemours plant, an accident that is said to have involved chlorinated dry bleach powder.
- Flammable Liquids and Gases: Flammable gases and liquids have been the cause of some of the most devastating chemical plant explosions. These substances are known to be extremely hazardous, and all safety precautions should be taken to keep them secure. The flammable liquid methanol is believed to be another one of the chemicals involved in the Chemours plant explosion.
- Hot Work: Welding, torch cutting, and other types of hot work are among the leading causes of all types of industrial fires and explosions. This kind of work is very dangerous in industrial plants, because the sparks and molten materials can reach temperatures that exceed 1000°F, and these materials have the ability to travel more than 35 feet.
- Faulty Equipment and Machinery: Machinery and equipment that is used in chemical and other types of industrial plants can become an explosion or fire hazard because of the heat and the friction between moving parts. Furnaces, mechanical, and hot work equipment are among the biggest culprits.
- Electrical Hazards: Electrical fires and explosions happen frequently in industrial plants. These incidents are usually caused by exposed wiring, wiring that is not up to code, extension cords, overloaded outlets, overloaded circuits, and static discharge.
The root causes for explosion accidents in the workplace usually include unsafe workplace practices such as inadequate training, poor supervision, failure to follow safe materials storage and handling protocols, failure to properly control ignition sources, and failure to provide adequate personal protective equipment.
Machinery and equipment failures are another root cause in many of these accidents, often resulting from corrosion that is not detected and/or addressed, inadequate cleaning and maintenance, and inherent product dangers or defects.
In the case of a chemical plant explosion like the one that just happened at the Chemours plant, the CSB investigation will usually take several months. After compiling and examining the evidence and reviewing regulations and industry practices, investigators will draft a report of their key findings and list root causes and recommendations.
Experienced Advocates for West Virginia Explosion Accident Victims
At Bailey, Javins, and Carter, our thoughts and prayers are with the four individuals who were injured in the Belle, WV chemical plant as well as their families. We are confident that the CSB will get to the bottom of what happened and help ensure that whichever parties were responsible are held accountable.
If you or a loved one has been hurt in an explosion accident or any other type of workplace injury in West Virginia, we are here to help. We have been standing up for injured workers in the Mountain State for five decades, and when you hire us, we will put our extensive experience to work and explore every potential legal avenue toward recovering maximum compensation.
For a free consultation with a member of our legal team, message us online or call our office today at (800) 497-0234 or (800) 296-6979. We look forward to serving you!
We take all cases on a contingency fee basis, so you only pay attorney fees if we win your case.