Dallas Plant Explosion Gas Delivery Company Has Poor Safety Record

Western International Gas & Cylinder, a gas delivery company involved in the Dallas plant explosion last month, has been cited numerous times for safety violations. The company was making a delivery to the Southwest Industrial Plant when the delivery truck exploded, severely burning two people and causing millions of dollars in damage.

According to the Dallas Morning News, Western International Gas & Cylinder was cited by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for transporting hazardous materials without a security plan. As a result, Western International Gas & Cylinder was fined $6,050. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration also fined the company in 2005 for not maintaining equipment at its Belleville, Texas plant in a way that would prevent an explosion.

On July 25, an 18-wheel truck owned by Western International exploded at the Southwest Industrial Gases facility in Dallas. That fire spread to gas canisters in the facility. The canisters, filled with oxygen, helium and acetylene, began exploding, sending fireballs through the air. Witnesses a mile away reported flaming shrapnel falling from the sky, and a half-mile area around Southwest Industrial Gases was evacuated. The explosions shut down a major Dallas highway, and traffic in the city was snarled for hours. The explosions were so ferocious, that at first, fire crews could not get to the scene. Dallas Fire-Rescue has said that the explosion was caused by either a mechanical failure or human error.

Less than three weeks after that explosion, Western International Gas & Cylinder was making a delivery to the Hughes Christian manufacturing plant near Houston, Texas when the company’s truck burst into flames. While no cause has been assigned to that blaze, a spokesman for Hughes Christian said that Western International had been making a delivery of new canisters and gas when the company’s truck exploded. Fortunately, firefighters were able to keep the flames from spreading to nearby acetylene tanks. No one was hurt, though the Hughes Christian plant was evacuated.

Western International’s Belleville, plant was also the site of an acetylene explosion in 2001. Like the Houston and Dallas fires, that explosion also started on one of the company’s trucks. No one was hurt in that fire, but a nearby highway was closed.

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazards Board is investigating the Dallas incident, and is expected to announce soon if it will launch a full investigation into the Southwest Industrial Gas Explosion. The board is working to determine if any problems that led to the Dallas explosion are common at other facilities in the U.S. If so, such an investigation could lead to improvements nationwide.

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