Manufacturing / Industrial Plant Explosion Injuries
A plant explosion sends a blast wave outward that can cause extensive property damage as well as catastrophic personal injury and death to those nearby. The release of energy in an explosion is often accompanied by fire and flying debris that can also injure and kill.
In many industrial, manufacturing and processing plants across North Carolina, there are chemicals, gases, machinery and other flammable materials that can ignite and create explosions, if not used and stored correctly. Industrial and manufacturing plant explosions are almost always found to have been preventable.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the N.C. Department of Labor along with other agencies regulate the storage and handling of explosive chemical materials and other workplace hazards. Industrial and manufacturing plant explosions are typically traced back to the company, a vendor or an employee violating regulations, using improper equipment, or not having proper training.
If you or someone you care about has been seriously injured in a plant explosion caused by someone else’s negligence or disregard for safety, contact the Raleigh plant explosion lawyers of Hardison & Cochran to discuss a potential legal claim. We can help you seek compensation that makes you financially whole. We are here to help you through the healing process as your case progresses.
How Plant Explosions Occur
A plant explosion is the combination of an energy source plus heat (ignition), which creates gas that, as it expands, creates combustion that is rapidly released into the surrounding environment. For example, sealed liquids may boil and produce steam if heated. As the steam occupies more space than the liquid, the pressure increases until the container gives way in a violent explosion.
Most plant explosions are touched off by open flame, including sparks from machinery or hot work, or by electricity, including static electricity.
Even the dust in the air at a plant can explode. Combustible dusts typically contain finely ground organic or metal particles. When in sufficient quantity and concentration, the friction caused by these dust particles colliding in the air can create enough heat to ignite. When this combustion is confined to an enclosure, such as a room, building or processing equipment, the quick rise in pressure can lead to an explosion.
The five major causes of plant explosions are:
- Hot work. Welding, torch cutting, soldering and brazing can create sparks and molten materials, which reach temperatures greater than 1,000⁰F. They can easily travel more than 35 feet and ignite an energy source causing an explosion.
- Combustible dust. In many combustible dust incidents, employers and employees were unaware that a hazard even existed.
- Flammable liquids and gasses. There is danger in any work involving flammable liquids and gasses. Fires are easily touched off and, under proper conditions, can lead to explosions.
- Electrical hazards. Wiring that is exposed or not up to code, overloaded outlets, extension cords, overloaded circuits and static discharge can cause a spark or fire, which can ignite any explosive material.
- Faulty equipment and machinery. Any mechanical equipment can become a fire and explosion hazard due to friction between moving parts producing sparks or flame.
Common Injuries Sustained in a Plant Explosion
Plant explosions can cause unusual injuries seen infrequently outside combat. A large explosion can produce intense heat. Farther out, the force of the explosion causes a blast wave that leads to blunt force trauma among individuals in the vicinity. The heat from an explosion can sear the lungs of people nearby, producing a fatal condition known as blast lung. Smoke inhalation can cause pulmonary injury, if not suffocation.
Individuals near an explosion may also be hit by flying debris or material falling from damaged structures. Flying debris can cause penetrating injuries and blunt force injuries as well as lacerations and possibly burns. Those who are knocked down by the blast can suffer secondary blunt force trauma.
Common injuries caused by plant explosions include:
- Traumatic brain injury. The impact of an explosion can shake an individual’s brain inside their skull, causing it to bruise and bleed. Shrapnel propelled by an explosion can pierce the skull, damaging brain tissue. Falling brick, rebar and other pieces of a structure that is damaged in an explosion can hit an individual in the head and cause a concussion or a more serious head injury.
- Burns. Heat, radiation and toxic chemicals can burn through skin and into underlying muscle and bone. Third- and fourth-degree burns cause deep tissue damage. Even with emergency care, a major burn victim may succumb to complications of their injuries, such as infection. Survivors may require reconstructive surgery to address scarring.
- Broken bones. The impact of an explosion, being hit by debris from an explosion and/or being thrown to the ground by the force of a blast can fracture arms, wrists, legs, ribs and/or other bones.
- Back injuries. Individuals who are violently thrown by the force of an explosion can be hit in their backs and injure muscles and other soft tissue, including vertebrae and the spinal cord. Damage to the spinal cord can cause paralysis.
- Pulmonary (lung) injuries. The sudden over-pressurization of the atmosphere in a large explosion can cause blunt force injury to lung tissue, known as “pulmonary contusion.” The force of a blast can also cause air embolism in the lungs. Heat and fire, as well as smoke, can damage lung tissue if inhaled, as can toxic gases propelled forth by an explosion.
- Ear injury and hearing loss. The shock of an explosion can puncture the ear drum and may damage the structure and bones of the middle and/or inner ear. Burns or extensive lacerations can leave the outer ear disfigured or scarred.
- Facial and eye injuries. While debris sent flying by an explosion can tear into the flesh anywhere on the body, shrapnel that pierces the eyes can cause vision loss. Facial lacerations can lead to disfiguring scars. In some cases, the force of a blast can cause the globe of the eye to rupture, causing permanent blindness.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Experiencing or witnessing an explosion or other life-threatening event can cause post-traumatic stress disorder. People with PTSD may suffer from anxiety, flashbacks, nightmares and fixation on the event. If PTSD cannot be treated, the patient’s inescapable anxiety and fear can lead to depression and self-harm.
How Can a North Carolina Plant Explosion Lawyer Help?
An explosion that causes injuries at an industrial or manufacturing plant will trigger state and federal investigations. As investigative work proceeds, the injured may remain hospitalized and face surgery and other treatment. Families will grieve explosion victims who do not survive.
Victims of significant plant explosions face steep medical bills and loss of income, as well as pain and suffering. Those who are permanently disabled may lose their ability to work for a living and face ongoing medical and personal care costs.
Anyone who has been seriously injured or lost a loved one in a plant explosion should seek qualified legal guidance about seeking compensation. An investigation may show that multiple parties bear responsibility for a plant explosion. Insurance companies will work to minimize the liability of their policyholder.
The injured will need an experienced explosion injury lawyer capable of investigating the blast and sorting out liability, then aggressively pursuing compensation on behalf of their clients.
The North Carolina plant explosion attorneys from Hardison & Cochran investigate large-scale explosions to gather evidence so we can identify and build a solid case against any and all liable parties. We take into account all of our clients’ losses, including working with experts to project the costs of future losses and financial needs in cases of disabling injury.
At Hardison & Cochran, our attorneys have many years of experience handling catastrophic injury claims. We are focused on making things happen for our clients. Our insight into North Carolina personal injury law may allow us to identify options for pursuing compensation that others overlook. We negotiate aggressively on behalf of injured clients for an appropriate settlement. When we must go to court, we prepare a solid and persuasive case.
A personal injury claim based on a plant explosion in North Carolina may demand compensation for:
- Medical expenses from the date of the explosion as well as the cost of future medical treatment and personal care required by disabling injuries
- Lost income due to missed work and/or lost earning capacity
- Property damage to real and personal property, potentially including rebuilding costs
- Funeral and burial expenses for a loved one killed in an explosion
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of the care and companionship of a loved one.
Contact Our N.C. Plant Explosion Lawyers
If you or a loved one has been injured in an industrial plant or manufacturing plant explosion in North Carolina, contact one of our experienced plant explosion injury attorneys as soon as possible. We are committed to seeking justice for plant explosion victims who have been seriously injured. We have an unyielding commitment to seeking the maximum amount of compensation available by law to help our clients rebuild their lives.
If we handle your case, we will offer to represent you on a contingent fee basis. You will not be charged any legal fees unless we win your case. Hardison & Cochran represents explosion accident victims from throughout North Carolina, including Raleigh, Cary, Wilmington, and Fayetteville.