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Lessons from the Texas City tragedy

Friday, March 21, 2008

Sunday marks the three-year anniversary of an explosion at a local BP plant that killed 15 workers and injured dozens of others. Now, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board has released a safety video filled with lessons in hopes of preventing this from happening again.

This video is aimed at sending a message to the rest of the petrochemical industry.

It's called the "Anatomy of a Disaster." Not only does it show in detail what happened, but what should be learned from that tragedy.

From the very beginning, the video is stark and dramatic, detailing the horrific events which left an entire community in shock.

"As thick black smoke billowed from the plant, authorities instructed some 43,000 residents to stay indoors," narrated a voice on the video.

The video runs 56 minutes, tracing the hours following that deadly disaster. It also includes a new 9 minute 3-D computer animation of the sequence of events leading up to the explosion, showing exactly how human error contributed to the accident which killed 15, and injured some 180 others.

"The day supervisor left the refinery just before 11am to attend a family medical emergency," the video's narrator continued. "Contrary to BP's own procedures, no experienced supervisor was assigned to replace him."

The video was made with the intention of being a lesson for the rest of the petrochemical industry, featuring interviews with key members of the CSB investigative team and three outside experts.

"My fear is that some of the other refineries within the United States will feel, that couldn't happen to me," said Glenn Ervin with United Steelworkers. "And the ones that feel that could happen is the ones that are set up to have it happen there."

The Chemical Safety Board hopes to distribute the video to other refineries nationwide to ensure what happened three years ago will never happen again.

"To all of you, I express my deepest condolences and sincere wishes that society never allows another accident like this to occur," said CSB Chairman Carolyn Meritt.

You'll recall the refinery was fined more than $21 million for that accident. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration found more than 300 willful violations.

You can see the entire video on the CSB web site

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