Carbide Industries Fatality: Preventable?

Carbide Industries Fatality: Preventable?

It is arguably a family’s worst nightmare when the breadwinner dies on the job. But just such a tragedy occurred on February 15, 2018, at the West Louisville Carbide Industries plant, located in the Rubbertown neighborhood. At approximately 4:30 a.m., a 38-year-old worker was electrocuted at the plant. Efforts by first responders to resuscitate the man were unsuccessful; he was declared dead an hour later at University Hospital.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will investigate the death, but it’s not the first time that Carbide Industries, which makes liquids used in steel mills, has undergone scrutiny by OSHA for workplace fatalities.

A History of Industrial Deaths

In 2011, an explosion that killed two workers at the Carbide Industries plant also injured two additional workers. The blast was significant enough that shelter-in-place warnings were issued to everyone within a one-mile radius of the plant.

When federal investigators looked into the 2011 deaths from the large electric arc furnace that exploded, they discovered that Carbide Industries had tolerated a number of failures and ignored warning signs over many years. In the previous five months alone, 26 work orders involving the problematical furnace were issued. The company had experienced similar but smaller blasts with the furnace previous to the catastrophic 2011 blast.

Post-blast, nine serious safety violations were discovered by federal inspectors from 2011 through 2016, resulting in fines to Carbide Industries of almost $100K.

Outcome of the 2011 Deaths Investigation

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) investigated the 2011 accident, resulting in eight key findings. Some of those findings were telling:

  • The electric arc furnace had exploded with such force that it broke the reinforced window in the control room and killed the two workers.
  • Previous furnace events involving over-pressurization had also broken the window in the control room, but without any fatalities occurring.
  • Despite the previous events, no actions were taken to monitor the furnace and better protect the workers.
  • Carbide Industries continued to operate the furnace in the face of the 26 work orders for water leaks on the cover of the furnace, despite known risks.
  • Past explosions were not adequately addressed by the company.
  • There was no existing safety management program that required eliminating overpressure incidents involving the furnace.

Was anything changed at the Louisville Carbide Industries plant in the wake of the 2011 tragedy? We simply don’t know. But while we don’t have the facts concerning the 2018 blast, we are led to wonder about this issue because of the nine serious safety violations that drew heavy fines as recently as 2016.

Although many workplace injuries are covered by workers’ compensation, if a worker dies due to the negligence or misconduct of a company, survivors may be able to pursue a wrongful death claim.

When others breach their duty, we keep ours.

Deaths from electrocution and explosion are frequently caused by workplace accidents. When such a death is a wrongful death, the legal claim can be costly to pursue. Although many law firms are not in a position to effectively reach a resolution in these cases, the investigative team at McNeely Stephenson goes to work immediately to uncover the ‘who,’ ‘what,’ ‘when,’ ‘where,’ ‘why’ and ‘how’ of a wrongful death case. We are committed to bringing together the most qualified experts available to uncover what happened. In wrongful death lawsuits, the proficiency of your experts is crucial in both the investigation and litigation phases of your claim.

You can be assured that our attorneys, Mike Stephenson and Brady Rife, are willing to go the distance on behalf of your family and in the memory of your loved one. We offer free consultations and would like to discuss how we can be of service to you. Contact us today by calling 1-317-825-5200, or use our online contact form.