Devastating Texas blast exposes deficiencies in safety oversight
In spite of its horrific toll, last week’s harrowing events in Boston seemed to offer closure – one suspect dead, the other in custody and no evidence of connections to a terrorist group.
But there’s no neat ending to be found in the explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, last week.
Fourteen people were killed and 200 injured. Homes and schools are damaged, some beyond repair, and it might be weeks before water and natural gas are restored.
A careful investigation of the cause of the explosion is warranted, but so is an immediate effort to ensure the disaster isn’t repeated elsewhere.
No one should die or be critically injured watching the Boston Marathon, and no one should die or be critically injured because they work at or live near a fertilizer plant.
What is known about last week’s explosion is that the West Chemical and Fertilizer plant hadn’t been inspected by OSHA in 28 years.
State oversight also failed, but Texas isn’t alone in its lax regulatory stance.
A Journal Gazette investigation earlier this year found that the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration conducted about 2,000 annual inspections over the past decade, compared with 7,000 annual inspections during the 1980s.
On average, it took more than 15 days to respond to a workplace complaint.
If Americans want a truly satisfying resolution to an unsettling week, they will demand that those responsible for the deadly explosion in Texas be held accountable and demand adequate regulation of similar operations.