According to analysis by Think Progress, the Geismar, La., petrochemical plant that exploded on Thursday has not been inspected by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) since 1993. The blast at the Williams Companies Inc.’s olefins plant killed one person and injured 73.
Explosions and other accidents at uninspected plants are becoming alarmingly common. An accident at the same plant in 2009 did not injure anyone. Louisiana also has seen two other chemical plant explosions in the past two years. A similar event in West, Texas, in April led to 15 deaths. That plant had not been inspected by OSHA since the mid-1980s.
Think Progress also notes that there are thousands of plants around the country where similar accidents could lead to much bigger tragedies:
While the surrounding population near the Williams plant seems to be small, thousands of chemical plants across the country pose risks to large populations. Nearly 7,000 have reported that a worst-case scenario would impact populations greater than 1,000 people, and 90 plants would impact more than 1 million people.
According to the AFL-CIO’s 2013 Death on the Job Report, there are only about 2,000 federal and state OSHA inspectors responsible for overseeing safety and health at 8 million workplaces. At the current rate, the average workplace only gets an inspection once every 100 years. In Louisiana, where this latest explosion occurred, OSHA is only able to inspect workplaces once every 169 years. The sequester is going to force OSHA to cut its budget another 5.2%, making the situation even worse.
Update: After a second factory explosion in Louisiana Friday evening, OSHA has announced it will investigate the cause of the blast that killed one person and injured seven. More details can be found on the Washington Post.