Chemical fires and explosions experts analyze data to determine the source of accidents and report these findings to the court. They are trained to consult in litigation following an explosion and opine on the cause of the accident. A Louisiana jury assigned responsibility for a 2013 chemical plant explosion that killed two and injured 167 to the global energy company. The petrochemical facility, headquartered in Tulsa, OK, is in the natural gas processing and transportation business as well as the production of olefins for petrochemical feedstocks. The catastrophic rupture of a reboiler destroyed much of the facility. In 2016, the U.S Chemical Safety Board found process safety management program deficiencies at the petrochemical plant in Geismar, LA, during the 12 years leading up to the incident. CBS.gov states:
The CSB investigation revealed a poor process safety culture at the petrochemical plant facility, resulting in a number of process safety management program weaknesses. These include deficiencies in implementing Management of Change (MOC), Pre-Startup Safety Review (PSSR), Process Hazard Analysis (PHA) programs, and procedure programs causal to the incident:
Failure to appropriately manage or effectively review two significant changes that introduced new hazards involving the reboiler that ruptured—(1) the installation of block valves that could isolate the reboiler from its protective pressure relief device and (2) the administrative controls the plant relied on to control the position (open or closed) of these block valves.
Failure to effectively complete a key hazard analysis recommendation intended to protect the reboiler that ultimately ruptured.
Failure to perform a hazard analysis and develop a procedure for the operations activities conducted on the day of the incident that could have addressed overpressure protection.
Chemical fire explosion expert witnesses are experienced in evaluating the overall investigation and cause in accidents such as the one at the petrochemical plant. These experts determine whether the explosion was due to human factors, faulty equipment, a problem with management, etc., and report their findings to the court. Consequently, the highly trained explosions expert witness plays an important role as a member of the litigation team.