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Asphalt plant accident highlights workplace safety failures

When workers in Pennsylvania operate asphalt plants, they may be at risk of catastrophic workplace accidents and injuries. In one case, a serious incident was caused by a fire and explosion that took place after diesel was used to clean the asphalt tank. In this case, a man opened a valve to allow a 55-gallon drum of diesel fuel and began the cleaning process.

After the cleaning began, the plant operator started the asphalt pump but saw a puff of smoke and then a severe explosion. The explosion engulfed the man spraying diesel in flames; it likely would have been fatal if not for a water truck making the rounds and directing a stream of water at the injured man on the ground and extinguishing the blaze. The man who had been spraying diesel was severely burned throughout his body, and while he survived, the workplace injury ended his career; he received disability for the rest of his life.

Even the plant itself was severely damaged in the explosion and fire with steel beams blasted out of position and wiring burned away. Accident investigators sought to determine the cause of the damage. They found that the equipment to operate the plant had been modified on site in order to replace its metering system. As a result of the quick work, the mixing system could no longer be reversed in order to clean it. Thus, the company turned to highly flammable diesel for daily cleaning; the heat of the equipment and the flash point of the fuel led to the catastrophic incident.

Workers may face severe injuries on the job, especially when employers fail to follow safety regulations and OSHA guidelines. Injured workers may turn to a workers' compensation lawyer to help them fight for compensation for their lost wages, medical bills and other damages.

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