Living only 50 miles away from West, TX, the plant explosion is constantly in the news, and the news is not good. The more the investigators dig into what happened, the more they find out about lack of regulation enforcement. West Chemical and Fertilizer tried to obtain an exemption from OSHA inspections, allowing less regulations for companies that sell more than half of their product to end users. However, OSHA doesn’t follow up with these companies, and in fact, had not inspected the plant in West since 1985.
How can this be fixed? For starters, OSHA can perform inspections like they are suppose to, no matter the size or exemption of the company. If OSHA and the EPA don’t enforce laws, companies are going to continue to get away with anything and everything they can.
Which is exactly what the plant in West did. Not only were they not inspected, they built the town right up against the plant. Why? Texas has minimal rules and regulations when it comes to protecting its citizens. But citizens don’t have to sit back and let it happen to them. There are so many grass roots efforts that have made big changes in our policies. Sadly, 15 people died for no reason in West, TX, and hopefully it never happens again. People are not going to sit around and let another apartment building, retirement home, or school be built within 500 feet of a fertilizer plant, ever again.
The one positive thing we can all take away from this tragedy is that we can prevent it in the future. It may be an uphill battle, especially here in Texas, but it can be fixed. We just have to make sure the government officials in Austin follow the laws to protect the citizens of Texas.