Fires and Explosions at Construction Sites in California

When one worker injured in an explosion and fire at a construction site woke up in the hospital, his first thoughts were "Why am I here? I've got to get back to work." In 40 years of careful construction work, he had only had minor scrapes before.

But this time, he was using a cutting torch on an empty 55-gallon barrel when the explosion happened. "My hand was on the torch," he said and "I got the most" of the shock.

Fire and explosions

The worker was lucky to be alive. Explosions at construction sites are a common danger. According to to the U.S. Fire Administration there are more than 4,8K fires at construction sites each year as well.

Explosions and fires have great physical and chemical impacts that can cause death or catastrophic injuries.

Such data show that mistakes may be easy to make, and construction explosions and fires may be even common in the workplace. But it is also true that proper safety precautions are known, easy to install, and common-sense solutions which any employers can use to prevent them.

So while workers must make every effort to act safely, it is even more important for employers to provide workplaces which prevent, and not encourage, such accidents.

What Causes Construction Site Fires and Explosions?

According to the Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA), 36 construction workers are killed each year by fire and explosion, and even more, are injured in such accidents. Injuries from fires and explosions are often severe, with ear, eye, brain, burn, and abdominal hemorrhage and perforation injuries common.

From underground gas lines to temporary heating devices to electrical systems, construction sites in California are full of hazards that can turn a day’s work from routine to explosive in an instant. A single spark can set off a construction site fire or explosion that injures numerous workers. Some of the leading causes of these incidents include:

  • Chemical tanks or drums
  • Compressed gas cylinders
  • Electrical malfunctions and shorts
  • Explosives and blasting agents
  • Flammable and combustible liquids
  • Liquefied petroleum gas
  • Temporary heating devices
  • Vehicles and heavy equipment

These incidents can have grave effects for the construction workers who suffer them. Even if not resulting in death, there can be serious lifelong health impacts that result.

Health effects of fire and explosion

As a result of his ordeal, the injured worker suffered burns affecting his legs, back and face. In the hospital, he told reporters "I can stand the pain, it just takes a long time to heal." But he remains optimistic.

Fire and explosion injuries can include traumatic brain injury, respiratory damage, broken bones, spinal cord damage, disfigurement, and scarring. And even while some burns look minor, there can still be substantial internal damage.

The blast of an explosion can cause tissue damage, and propelled fragments can cause penetrating injuries.

Falling objects or impact from blast displacing the victim's body against a stationary object usually cause blunt injuries but could also cause penetrating injuries. Additionally, victims often suffer burns from the heat discharged by fire ignited by the blast.

While the injured worker's case is a happy one, in that he survived, it also exemplifies the lifelong damage and effects which such fire and explosion accidents can have, even when a victim survives. In addition to high costs for medical treatment, he will have to live with pain and lost livelihood while he recovers. After, he will still have to live with lifelong damage which the explosion and fire have left him with.

John M. O'Brien & Associates is ready to help. Our Sacramento & Elk Grove lawyers represent construction site contractors, visitors, and passers-by who have sustained an injury because of a fire or explosion. Violation of an OSHA regulation may be evidence of negligence. You may be able to sue a negligent, non-employer third party. This could be a property owner, a general contractor, a subcontractor or others. Whoever it is, you must show that they were somehow negligent and that their negligence caused your injury.