Safer Storage Needed: Unsecured Oil Storage Tanks Lead to Deaths of Young Adults and Children (Part I)

After a number of deadly incidents at oil and gas storage facilities over the course of the last 20 years, federal investigators are these facilities to better secure their storage sites.

According to statistics provided by the Chemical Safety Board (CSB), at least 44 people have died in explosions and fires that occurred while they were on recreational visits to oil and gas storage sites. Another 25 were injured in these explosions and fires.

While 44 deaths in the course of 27 years (from 1983 to 2010) may not seem like many, even one death is too many — especially when all of these deaths were of young people under the age of 25.

Many of these incidents involved curious kids, teenagers and young adults that stumbled across the unsecured or unprotected storage tanks holding unrefined oil. According to a report released by the CSB, storage tanks are often kept in remote areas without fences or warning signs. These unsecured areas can be a tempting place for partying teenagers to hang out.

One of the more recent incidents includes the story of a 24-year-old woman in East Texas who lit a cigarette while on top of an oil tank. The tank exploded, killing the young woman and injuring her 25-year-old companion.

Of the injury-causing explosions and fires, 27 percent of them occurred in Texas. Most of the incidents were in the south central part of the United States — New Mexico, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Louisiana, although there were several incidents in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Illinois.

To learn what how federal investigators believe these incidents could be prevented, please check back for our next post.

Source: Houston Chronicle, “Feds urge oil, gas sites to protect kids from blasts,” 10/27/11.