From its early days as a nation, the United States was built heavily on the rise of industrial plants and manufacturing. Various areas of the country, many along the east coast, were home to manufacturing facilities, coal mines, oil refineries, and large-scale farming. These industries, at one point, employed a majority of Americans, with entire families working in mills or plants in order to earn a living. However, it soon became apparent that these jobs contained great risks of serious injury or death.
Explosions at job sites have been reported at least as far back as 1860. Many of these explosions had a massive death and injury toll. Each time a blast has occurred, it has led to additional rules and regulations designed to improve safety.
Let’s take a look at some of the most prominent historical explosions and the impact that they had, both at the time as well as currently.
Washburn Mill Explosion – May 2, 1868
On May 2, 1868, the Washburn flour mill in Minneapolis, Minnesota, exploded, leading to the death of 18 workers. The explosion destroyed the mill and blew off its roof, sending it hundreds of feet into the air. Nearby buildings were also damaged or destroyed by the impact of the blast.
In the aftermath of the explosion, the owner of the mill hired an industrial engineer with the goal of improving safety and helping Minneapolis to maintain its status as a mill town. In order to reduce the risk of another explosion, a new mill was rebuilt with improved ventilation and airflow systems after it was determined that dry millstones had led to the disaster.
Monongah Coal Mine Disaster – December 6, 1907
In 1907, a massive explosion in a coal mine in Monongah, West Virginia, resulted in the deaths of 362 miners. As of today, the explosion remains the single worst mining explosion in American history. Two blasts occurred, an initial blast and then a larger one in a separate section of the mine. The resulting effects of the explosion destroyed ventilation systems, leaving hundreds of workers trapped inside and setting off a frantic rescue effort.
Following months of investigations, the true cause of the Monongah explosion was never determined. Still, public calls for greater safety regulations in the mining industry began to grow. The country experienced a large number of mine explosions during this time, and it became apparent that the current system was becoming too dangerous.
By 1910, at least partially in reaction to the Monongah explosion, the country had established the Bureau of Mines as a central regulatory authority in mine safety. A few years later, the federal government began issuing stricter rules designed to protect the lives of mine workers and to reduce the risk of catastrophic incidents.
Cleveland East Ohio Gas Explosion – October 20, 1944
On October 20, 1944, the East Ohio Gas Company operated a full-scale liquid natural gas plant in Cleveland, Ohio. The plant had been operating for about three years and was the only one of its kind in the world. However, on the day of the explosion, an above-ground storage tank began to leak a flammable gas vapor. Winds from Lake Erie pushed the vapor into Cleveland’s sewer line, resulting in a toxic mixture of combustible materials.
The mixture eventually caught fire and exploded, resulting in a massive fire that trapped nearby residents in their homes. The final death toll landed at 131 as numerous innocent civilians were killed. The resulting fallout from the explosion led to a change in how gas tanks were stored in the United States as above-ground storage systems were eliminated in favor of a bel0w-ground model.
BP Oil Refinery Explosion – March 23, 2005
The BP oil company operated an oil refinery in Texas City, Texas. On March 23, 2005, an explosion occurred at the BP plant, resulting in the deaths of 18 workers and injuring 180 others. Subsequent investigation revealed the explosion was caused by an over-pressurized distillation tower. As a result, a geyser-like explosion of combustible materials occurred at the site.
Government officials and investigators were able to determine that BP had violated numerous environmental safety laws. Record fines were imposed on the company by regulatory agencies such as OSHA. In addition, BP faced numerous civil lawsuits from victims and their family members for its role in the explosion. More than 1.6 billion dollars has been paid out as a result.
How Past Explosions Shape Current Litigation
Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. The lessons from prior explosions have been applied in numerous industries across the United States. As far back as the 19th century, we can see how companies have implemented additional safety measures in response to deadly explosions at their workplaces.
However, many companies, even today, do not follow the best practices. Whether as a result of poor training, or a desire to cut corners and save costs, explosions are unfortunately still occurring. In 2021, it is estimated that more than 800 explosions happened across the country. Undoubtedly, some of these explosions happened because a company failed to follow an established safety practice or governmental regulation designed to prevent a blast.
Following an explosion, a thorough investigation will be conducted. The results of the investigation can help to determine whether litigation is needed. The issue of whether proper safety protocols were followed is always going to be at the center of a post-explosion investigation. If you believe you may have a claim, you should contact a United States explosion accident lawyer as soon as possible.
National Explosion Accident Attorneys
At Burg Simpson, we proudly represent victims who have been hurt in an explosion. Our lawyers handle cases across the country. If you are unable to come to us, we will gladly meet you where you are.
We offer a free consultation for all potential and prospective clients. Our team of dedicated and experienced lawyers can help you following the sudden tragedy of an explosion. We are standing by to speak with you at any time. To schedule your appointment with one of our national explosion accident attorneys, please contact us using our online intake form or give us a call at (888) 895-2080.