The Price of Safety

The Houston Chronicle ran a front page story on January 28, 2016 regarding the fact that nothing has been done to correct the many systemic failures that made possible the explosion of a fertilizer storage facility in West, Texas on April 17, 2013. Many lives were lost and there was a property damage loss estimated to be in the range of $230-250 million. One would think that such a devastating loss of life and property would be enough to spur serious action. But, it hasn’t been. Our legislature has done almost nothing. 

    According to the article, there have been more than 400 separate chemical accidents across the country since the West explosion. Almost all Texas fertilizer plants are within one quarter mile of a residence.

    The federal Chemical Safety Board is issuing a 265 page final report this week outlining the failures that led to the West explosion. One would think that our legislators would use that report as a blueprint for action, but that is unlikely. Our legislature is still stuck in the mindset that safety rules and regulations are too costly and should be voluntary. This is an age-old political and philosophical debate that goes back to the late 1800s and early 1900s when factory workers, railroad workers , and miners were considered by rich capitalists to be expendable. Almost every safety rule and regulation we have today was created over the objection of business interests claiming they were unnecessary, too expensive, and would put them out of business. It seems that people and their safety should come first. If an industry cannot be carried out profitably and safely, maybe that industry shouldn’t exist in its present form.