Welcome to Life in Texas City
After yesterday's blast at a BP-Amoco oil refinery in Texas City that killed 15 and injured more than 100, many articles pointed out that the Gulf coast port was also the site of the infamous 1947 ship explosion that killed nearly 600. "Welcome to life in Texas City," one resident told the AP. "I was born here and pretty much, it happens from time to time."
Last March, another explosion rocked the same plant, and in September two employees were burned to death by superheated water. OSHA stepped in and cited the plant for safety violations, slapping the corporation with fines of $63,000 and $109,500, respectively, for the two incidents.
BP was enjoying a marvelous year financially due to spiraling oil and gas prices (which may go even higher as a result of the explosion), its profits increasing 50 percent from 2003, its overall revenues coming in at $295 billion. At that rate, I figure it took BP about 18 and a half seconds to make back the OSHA fines.
It turns out that the 15 victims were contract workers instead of regular employees. According to Confined Space, "The explosion may resurrect questions about the widespread use of contract labor in U.S. refineries and chemical plants":
The rising use of contractors in oil refineries as a way to cut costs has been highly controversial. OSHA commissioned an investigation into the massive October 1989 explosion at a Texas Phillips 66 refinery that killed 23 workers. That explosion also involved contractors, and the resulting "John Gray" report found that they had not received adequate training and were not adequately familiar with how the plant operated....2200 out of the 3300 workers at the facility yesterday were contract employees.