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Worker killed in explosion at Houston oil refinery

Another Texas worker lost his life on the job this weekend. The fatal workplace accident occurred on Saturday morning after an explosion at a plant in Channelview, which is often described as an "oil refinery suburb of Houston." Officials said a 47-year-old worker was killed in the blast and a 26-year-old employee suffered injuries.

The surviving worker is recovering in a local hospital and has been listed in good condition. So far, few details relating to the cause of the blast have been released, but a spokesman for the Harris County Sherriff's Office said that the deceased worker was welding near a storage tank when the welding machine malfunctioned.

The Sherriff's Office spokesman said the worker died as a result of heavy trauma to the upper body and head. He said the Harris County Fire Marshal's Office has taken over the investigation.

The owner of the plant, Oiltanking Partners L.P., immediately released a statement saying that the worker who died in the explosion was an employee of an independent contractor. The statement also said that "there was no fire, environmental or health threat that occurred" as a result of the accident.

It is likely that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will also be called in to conduct an inspection of the premises. If the OSHA inspection reveals that safety violations contributed to the accident, the company could face serious OSHA fines. Additionally, the company may also face a wrongful death lawsuit if dangerous working conditions were to blame for the explosion.

Oiltanking Partners L.P. is a company that stores and transports crude oil, refined petroleum and liquefied petroleum gas. The company has plants on the Houston Ship Channel and in Beaumont.

Source: Houston Chronicle, "1 dead, 1 hurt in blast at Channelview plant," June 3, 2012

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