Could the Explosion That Killed 15 in Texas City Happen Again?

A joint investigation by the Texas Tribune and Houston Chronicle finds that the death tolls at Texas refineries has barely slowed.

By Rhonda Fanning March 22, 2015 10:48 pm

Ten years after the horrific explosion of a British Petroleum oil refinery in Texas City killed 15 people and wounded around 180 others, an investigation finds that little has changed.

“This was a tragedy of errors,” the Texas Tribune‘s Jim Malewitz says. “Ultimately this was a culture of negligence, of cost cutting; the fact that BP had not invested in safety, (not) upgrading their units in years.”

As a result of the catastrophe and the subsequent backlash against the lack of oil and gas industry oversight, regulators and industry’s representatives promised more money spent on safety and training to avoid another disaster.

Now ten years later, an investigation from the Tribune and the Houston Chronicle reveals that little has been done to curb the mortality rates at refineries.

“One very simple recommendation as a result of the study: don’t put too many workers in harms way,” Malewitz says. The unit that exploded in Texas City, those 15 workers who died were all in temporary trailers. Don’t put workers in those areas. Yet the Houston Chronicle has found those very same tents and trailers are back up, right where the bodies were carted away.”

Though no single incident has matched the 2005 devastation, a two-month investigation finds the industry’s overall death toll barely slowed: in the decade before the explosion, 64 employees and contractors were killed. In the decade since, 58 have been killed.

For more, listen to Malewitz’s interview with Texas Standard in the audio player above.