Last week, a technician was burned on the job while working on a cocking unit at Exxon Mobil Corp's Baytown, Texas refinery. According to Reuters, the worker was burned on the neck, shoulder and back while operating a steam vent valve on the refinery's flexicoker. The worker had to be flown to a hospital in Houston for medical treatment and he is expected to survive.
Since the accident, which burned more than 25 percent of the worker's body, the United Steelworkers union has criticized the old giant's safety record, pointing out that this incident makes 33 process safety problems recently at the Baytown refinery.
"These 33 occurrences prove there are far too many process safety incidents at this refinery," the president of the United Steelworkers union told Reuters. "Since the Baytown facility is the nation's largest refinery, it should lead the way in process safety."
A spokesperson for Exxon responded to the criticism by saying that safety was a core value for the company and that the company has "reduced the number of lost time incidents by about 70 percent" since 2000.
Even if the company is making strides to improve safety at its largest refinery, the bottom line is that if accidents are still happening this frequently, not enough is being done to protect the workers. In dangerous working environments, it is vital that companies go the extra mile with safety initiatives.
If Exxon is found to have violated any safety regulations or acted negligently in any other way that contributed to the accident that left this worker burned, it is entirely possible that the worker could sue the company for damages relating to medical costs, past and future lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Source: Reuters, "Union criticizes largest US refinery's safety record," 6/16/2011.