MySafetySign Blog

The West Texas tragedy: Can oversights lead to an overhaul?

Investigators scour the site of the deadly explosion at a West, Texas fertilizer facility (photo by Shane.torgerson).

All too often, safety oversights are brought to light because of a tragedy. In the case of the deadly explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. in Texas last month,  early investigations have revealed a patchwork of reporting requirements and safety thresholds that may have left workers and the community dangerously exposed.

An article on Salon.com states that the facility could have been regulated by at least seven different state and federal agencies: the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the Texas Department of State Health Services, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Texas Feed and Fertilizer Control Service.

Although the cause of the explosion – which killed 15 people, injured 200, and leveled nearby buildings – is still under investigation, the incident has already exposed some safety oversights and seemingly contradictory requirements that could ignite an overhaul in how regulatory agencies coordinate.

Ammonium nitrate is a hazardous chemical that requires regulation, such as using labels to protect workers from exposure.

The facility also was covered by exemptions that are now being questioned: