Despite the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) having regulatory oversight over fertilizer warehouses, many fertilizer warehouses continue to store ammonium nitrate in wooden bins that are housed inside wooden buildings that do not have a sprinkler system. With this poor storage system, the huge gap between federal and state regulations on the rules on how to prevent explosions, the lack of clarity in OSHA’s standards on the operation of ammonium nitrate storage facilities as well as the laxity in the enforcement of whatever standards have been set, and volunteer firefighters’ lack of preparation for fires at chemical facilities, authorities should have seen and felt that any of these warehouses could soon be consumed by a deadly fire and explosion.
In April of 2013, that was just what happened: one warehouse caught fire, its 40 to 60 tons of stored ammonium nitrate exploding immediately after. The explosion, which registered a 2.1 magnitude on seismographs, took the lives of 14 individuals and leveled a whole neighborhood.
Because of the scorching heat and the balls of flame it releases, its thick, black smoke which can suffocate and kill, the ear-piercing loud noise it produces, its powerful shock waves that can knock down doors and walls, and smash glass doors and glass windows, an explosion can definitely cause serious injuries, among which are severe burn, fractured bones, lacerations, lung injury, loss of limb/s, traumatic brain injury (TBI), trauma or shock, or death. Explosions are extremely damaging; however, damages even become bigger and more lives placed in danger if these occur in oil rigs, manufacturing facilities or industrial factories.
Many fertilizer plants in rural America, especially those that have been in existence for decades, often get overlooked by government authorities, making the storing of large amounts of potentially combustible fertilizer a continuing threat to the lives of workers and nearby residents. Despite its threats, government regulation for fertilizer-storage facilities, compared to power plants, refineries and other larger polluters, remain to be much more lax.
The website of Williams Kherkher says that, despite being relatively rare, industrial explosions are very dangerous occupational hazards faced by workers. Besides the serious physical injuries these can cause, these also leave majority of victims struggling with substantial medical bills that they may not be able to pay.