Fire and Explosion Accidents

In recent years, Massachusetts has experienced more than its share of high-profile workplace fire and explosion accidents.

In September 2021, a worker changing a fuse at a metal shop in Spencer sparked an explosion and suffered burn injuries as a result. Two months later, an Attleboro man who was using a chemical during a cleaning procedure at an industrial facility died from injuries he sustained in an explosion and flash fire.

In 2019, a chemical explosion at a manufacturing facility in Taunton injured three workers. The year before, a series of fires and explosions linked to problems with gas service affected more than three dozen homes and businesses in Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover. One man died, and several were injured.

The Boston personal injury attorneys at Jeffrey Glassman Injury Lawyers understand that fire and explosion accidents are among the most complex claims a law firm ever handles. Those who survive these catastrophes almost always suffer serious injuries, including debilitating burns and disfigurement. Considerable resources go into investigating these claims and obtaining justice for survivors and their families. For these reasons, speaking to an experienced personal injury and wrongful death law firm is critical at the earliest stages of such cases.

Fire and Explosion Accidents in Massachusetts

Workplace explosions often result from dangerous chemicals, coal dust, and fuels, including propane and natural gas.

Employees who are most at risk of injury from a work fire or explosion are those who work with and around chemicals and other dangerous substances. Employees who work in construction, manufacturing, or transporting hazardous materials face heightened fire and explosion risks.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 66 construction workers are killed each year due to explosions, fires, and hazardous chemical exposure. Construction sites are dangerous because they lack alarms, smoke detectors, sprinklers, and other safety features. In addition, portable space heaters used in the winter months can set a structure ablaze.

Equipment and machinery that are not maintained are fire and explosion hazards. Tools and machinery that are dirty or greasy can catch on fire. Defective machinery is dangerous and should be replaced.

Workers prone to fire and explosion injuries include:

  • Construction workers
  • Maritime workers
  • Welders
  • Electricians
  • HVAC workers
  • Chemical workers
  • Oil and gas workers
  • Truck drivers
  • Janitors
  • Agricultural workers

Fires and explosions can affect any industry and lead to devastating consequences. For example, office buildings, especially the large, towering ones located throughout Boston, are vulnerable to fires. Office buildings can go up in flames when there are electrical problems, including exposed wiring, wiring that is not up to code, and overloaded outlets and circuits.

Employers have a duty to put policies and procedures into place that reduce the risk of fire and explosion accidents and a fire plan that explains how these emergencies will be handled. In addition, they should train workers on how to avoid fire injuries.

After a work injury, a worker has the right to file a workers' compensation claim, regardless of whether the employer was at fault for the accident. If the injury occurred on the job, the worker should be entitled to benefits, including reimbursement of medical bills and lost wages.

An injured worker can file a lawsuit against negligent third parties such as the property owner, contractors, subcontractors who worked on the building, the architect who designed the building, and companies that manufactured or supplied defective building materials.

Fire and Explosion Accident Injuries in Massachusetts

Fires and explosions are responsible for the serious injury or death of far too many Massachusetts employees each year. According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), fires and explosions injure more than 5,000 workers every year. Poor evacuation plans exacerbate the risk of injury or death, as do blocked fire exits and other negligence on the part of an employer.

Work fires can cause employees to suffer debilitating and painful burns.

While explosions can cause burns, they can also cause severe and life-threatening injuries. Pressure from an explosion can damage a person's ears and lungs while flying debris can cause lacerations and eye damage. A big blast can knock a person over and lead to head and brain injuries. Many times, one large explosion causes secondary explosions. A powerful explosion can cause structural damage to a building or worksite and a catastrophic collapse that traps workers inside.

Here is a partial list of injuries that workers often suffer in Boston fire and explosion accidents:

  • Burns
  • Lacerations
  • Head injuries (concussions and traumatic brain injury)
  • Hearing loss
  • Lung injuries
  • Amputations
  • Wrongful death

The seriousness of the injury depends on several factors, including the type of explosive, whether the explosion occurred inside or outside, and how close the worker was to the blast.

Employers should provide workers with personal protective equipment if needed.

Dust Explosion Accidents

Workplace safety advocates have focused increasing attention on hazardous dust explosions in recent years. As explained by OSHA, sufficient quantities of dust particles can cause deflagration, or rapid combustion, when mixed with oxygen and a heat source. When such combustion is inside a building, the resulting pressure can cause an explosion. These accidents rely upon what's called the "Dust Explosion Pentagon"—oxygen, heat, fuel, dispersion, and confinement.

In 1999, a dust fire and explosion in a Massachusetts foundry killed three people and injured nine others. Such explosions can dislodge additional dust and may cause secondary explosions, which often result in the most death and destruction. The hazards of dust explosions exist in various manufacturing environments, including plants that manufacture food, feed, wood, paper, rubber, furniture, textiles, pharmaceuticals, and processed metals. Many of these industries can be found in Boston.

Those responsible for workplace safety can prevent dust explosions by:

  • Implementing hazardous dust safety and housekeeping programs.
  • Using collection and filtration systems.
  • Minimizing escaping dust from manufacturing processes.
  • Conducting regular dust inspections.
  • Controlling ignition sources.
  • Developing an emergency action plan.

If you are dealing with a fire or explosion accident injury in Massachusetts, contact Jeffrey Glassman Injury Lawyers at (617) 777-7777 for a free, confidential consultation, or fill out our online form.

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