Kuraray America, Inc., is a manufacturer of specialty textiles and polymers. Its website is steeped in technical terms, such as coextrusion, coinjection, monolayers, and elastomers, but in short, they make protective barriers used in a variety of products, from food to cosmetics to pharmaceuticals. Kuraray America Eval, located in Pasadena, Texas, is one of the company’s several plastics plants. Just after 10 a.m. on May 19, 2018, there was an explosion triggered by a buildup of gas in a section of the plant’s piping.
Eduardo Rodriguez was working on a scaffold when the explosion occurred. Not only was he severely burned in the accident, he was also forced to jump 25 feet to the ground to get to safety. Other workers suffered burns, injured knees, and back problems caused when they fled from the fire. Most sought medical attention at the local hospital, while two employees had to be flown by helicopter for immediate treatment of more severe injuries. In all, 21 workers were hurt in the blast.
Jeff Suggs, the corporate emergency manager for the plant, says the explosion was caused when a safety release valve inside an insulation tower failed. This triggered a buildup of ethylene, a flammable gas, in the piping of the building, causing a valve to blow. When this happened, it caused a flash fire inside one of the plant’s process units.
Injured Worker Files Suit
Rodriguez has filed a $1 million lawsuit against Kuraray America Eval on grounds of negligence and for failing to uphold safety policies. According to the lawsuit, Kuraray Eval knew, or should have known, about the faulty safety valve that caused the disaster. Additionally, the company should have had safety guidelines in place to protect workers from these types of incidents. Rodriquez’s claim was filed the weekend of the accident and asks for compensation for medical expenses, attorney fees, interest, and other damages.
Kuraray America Eval is the world’s largest ethylene vinyl alcohol plant and boasts four separate production lines on site. The plant opened in 1986 and employs roughly 100 people to produce materials used to create paper and other textiles.
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