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Oil sludge still in tank that exploded, Texas worker injured

A young man in Robertson County recently suffered critical injuries when a storage tank exploded at an abandoned oil well near Franklin. The 25-year-old was flown to a Houston hospital for treatment. He was reportedly using a torch to remove a catwalk from the 12,000-gallon tank when the explosion occurred.

The details of the accident are harrowing. Officials indicated that the worker was strapped into a safety harness, and the blast knocked him clear of the fire. However, he was swung back into the hot tank by the safety line, and for a short time he dangled there unconscious. The fire caused the safety harness to break, and the worker fell to the ground. A news report doesn't indicate the height from which he fell.

The Texas Railroad Commission was investigating the accident. Officials said the tank that exploded still contained "approximately eight inches of oil sludge in the bottom."

The injured man was working for a subcontractor hired by the owner of the well. A TRC inspector said that it wasn't clear whether the subcontractor was aware that oil sludge was still in the bottom of the tank before the explosion.

In work-related accidents involving contractors and subcontractors, proving liability for injuries can be a complicated matter requiring extensive legal knowledge and careful investigation. Too often, employers and third parties do what is in their power to avoid responsibility for a preventable accident.

Injured workers and their families should be aware of their options for receiving workers' compensation benefits, as well as possible compensation from any third party that may have played a role in the accident. 

Source: The Eagle, "Investigators: Cutting torch ignited explosion of oil tanks with sludge still inside," Jordan Overturf, July 10, 2014

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