Boiler explosions and steam releases pose injury risk to industrial workers

by Charles Miller

In December of 2009, workers at a Valero refinery in Texas City were trying to restart a giant industrial boiler when a catastrophic failure and explosion killed one worker and injured two others. In the days, weeks and months that followed the explosion, we all learned that the refinery had a history of problems since it was installed in 2006. Ultimately, federal investigators determine that worker’s death could have been prevented. Valero blamed the companies that manufactured and installed the boiler. According to the OSHA investigation, Valero hadn’t adequately investigated an earlier boiler explosion or taken proper steps to prevent it from recurring. OSHA also determined that the company hadn’t adequately trained workers, evaluated dangers or ensured the problematic boiler conformed to widely accepted safety standards.

Last fall, a jury awarded a man in Boston $7.7 million A Massachusetts jury has awarded $7.7 million to a boiler repairman who was severely burned by a defective water heater at a condominium complex. The worker sustained burns to 50% of his body in November 2008 when the boiler released steam and very hot water. He had thought the boiler was depressurized and empty. The heater tank’s gauges indicated to him, as had the condo manager, that was empty, the pressure had been released, and it was ready to be repaired.

As these examples illustrate, boiler rooms are quite dangerous. Even a pinhole leak in a high-pressure steam line can be deadly. There are, of course, are a great variety of boilers in use today in a wide range of environments. As a result, the governing safety regulations and standards are anything but “one-size-fits-all.” A ship’s boiler room has its own specific regulations, while a boiler room in a electrical generation plant has regulations specific to such plants. The hope is to addresses hazards unique to each setting. Unfortunately sometimes known hazards are not adequately addressed, and, as a result, people can be seriously injured or even killed.

Persons who have suffered serious injury or death and their families may be entitled to compensation for their losses resulting from a boiler incident. It is important to understand that all personal injury and wrongful death claims must be brought within a certain period of time, called the “statute of limitations.” Claims not brought within such time limits are barred as a matter of law.

To successfully bring about a personal injury or wrongful death claim, clients need an experienced, educated attorney on their side. They also need an attorney with the financial resources to take the case to trial. You can read more about the hard-working, talented, successful, well-educated and very experienced trial lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson by visiting the attorney biographies page of our website.

If you or a loved one has suffered an injury or significant property damage from a defective product, please contact the law firm of Heygood, Orr & Pearson for a free consultation. You can reach us by calling our toll-free hotline at 1-877-446-9001, or by filling out our free case evaluation form.