Explosion at Westlake Chemical Facility Seriously Injures Contractors

On September 27, 2021, an explosion at the Westlake Chemical Plant in Sulphur, Louisiana sent six (6) contractors to the hospital and injured dozens more.  The blast occurred around 11:00 p.m. in the Petro Complex 2 Unit as the contract employees were working on a planned maintenance turnaround.  Contractors in the immediate vicinity of the explosion were blown out of their clothes and suffered serious burns as well as orthopedic injuries, including the loss of a leg as well as serious injuries to their head, neck, back, and hands.  Others were injured trying to escape.

A company spokesman reported that the explosion caused a flash fire with no sustained flames.  However, a video posted on Facebook showed thick smoke rising from the plant around an hour and a half after the incident.  A resident in the neighborhood near the Plant commented that it shook their whole house, while another noted that they were working in the Plant and felt it in their chest.  Several lawsuits have already been filed, including several by Muhammad Aziz, a partner at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner.  Prior to the incident, Westlake operators issued what is called a “hot work permit” which allows welders to work on the equipment.  In a statement, Mr. Aziz said “These men should’ve never been issued hot work permits if it was not ensured by Westlake that the lines were clear, completely purged, and there was no flammable in the area.”

The Westlake Chemical Plant makes ethylene, the most widely produced organic compound in the world that is used to make plastics, polyester, synthetic runner as well as antifreeze and detergents.  It is a colorless flammable gas that can affect a person’s breathing.