These days, some movies are known more for their special effects than their plot or the caliber of the cast’s performances. Sounds are a key part of the action movie experience, from the roar of an engine to the fast firing of an automatic weapon. While these sounds may make for a popular movie, many are not welcome in real life. One sound that makes for movie drama but can accompany real-life tragedy is an explosion emanating from a chemical barrel. When someone is injured in a chemical explosion because of another person's (or company's) negligence, an injury suit may be appropriate, and our Panama City injury lawyer can help.
Niceville, Florida bills itself as "The Nicest Little City in the South," and the biggest source of excitement is the annual Boggy Bayou Mullet Festival (celebrating the fish, not the haircut!). At approximately 3 P.M. on Sunday, the sound of an explosion rocked Niceville's Everglades Drive. According to WJGH, a man was cutting the top off a 55-gallon drum containing a solvent when the explosion occurred with a quick flash. There was no fire. The unidentified man, who was working on a home-related project, suffered severe burns to his arms and abdomen. Emergency responders took him by life-flight to a Pensacola hospital.
As the Niceville resident unfortunately learned, solvents can be extremely dangerous. Oklahoma State University's Environmental Health and Safety Department provides a useful information sheet on "Staying on the Safe Side of Solvents" that helps people learn about the chemicals in a less-harmful fashion. Solvents, as the paper notes, are used to dissolve other substances. Familiar solvents include gasoline, benzene, and turpentine.
Solvents can be safe if handled with care, but they can cause serious health threats if used incorrectly. Since solvents dissolve oil, they can penetrate the oils that protect skin and eyes leading to "extreme irritation." Skin can become dry and irritated, leading to contact dermatitis in time. In some cases, solvents can go through skin and into the bloodstream. Vapors from solvents can damage eyes, and inhaling too much can lead to irritation of the nose and throat, dizziness, nausea, and headache. In extreme cases, solvent vapors cause someone to stop breathing. Long-term exposure can cause organ damage.
Additionally, the speed with which solvents evaporate can lead to explosions. As the fact sheet indicates, certain conditions can cause solvents to ignite at temperatures under 100⁰ F when exposed to a flame, a spark, or even static electricity. Solvents must be kept in grounded containers to avoid sparking due to static electricity. They must be kept away from direct sunlight, heat sources, and oxidizers (chemicals that can cause combustibles to ignite without an additional external ignition source).
Chemicals have many useful applications, but they also pose safety threats. Solvents are only one example of these mixed-blessings. When an explosion occurs, it is important to investigate the cause in order to prevent future tragedies. In some cases, chemical explosions are the result of manufacturers providing faulty tanks or failing to provide appropriate warnings about storage or use. When this is the case, a products liability case or other personal injury claim can be appropriate. If a chemical explosion occurs on a larger scale, a class action and/or toxic tort claim may be appropriate. In any form, a claim can provide needed compensation and force a company to change an unsafe practice.
If you or a loved one has been hurt in a chemical explosion in Northwest Florida, call our office. As a Panama City chemical explosion attorney, Wes Pittman can help you explore your legal options.