Lawyers representing the families of a worker who was killed and a worker who was hospitalised after a fire at a Marathon Petroleum refinery in Texas said on Wednesday that they plan to file injury claims against the US oil refiner, Reuters reports.
The fire, which broke out on Monday morning local time at Marathon’s Galveston Bay refinery in Texas City, killed Scott Higgins, a 55-year-old mechanist, and injured two others. One of these, Eduardo Olivo, was hospitalised and will take legal action against the company.
“We will be suing Marathon and the other entities” for gross negligence over Higgins death, Houston attorney Tony Buzbee said via Reuters. “Marathon put its profits over worker safety,” he added.
Olivo received second- and third degree burns in the fire, his lawyer Muhammad Azis told a press conference earlier this week. “He intends to bring negligence, premises liability and/or gross negligence” claims over his injuries, law firm Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner said in a court filing. Olivo and the third, unnamed worker were both employees of asset support company Mistras Group. Mistras did not immediately provide comment when asked.
A Marathon spokesperson told Reuters that an investigation into the fire is underway but declined to give any more specific information. The three workers were performing maintenance on the site’s Ultraformer-3 unit, a converter of naphtha, a highly flammable liquid hydrocarbon mixture. The unit is the larger of two Ultraformers at the Texas refinery, which stands at the second-largest refinery in the US, producing 593,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day. The repairs were designed to keep the plant operational until its planned overhaul in January next year, according to sources familiar with the matter.
Higgins is the second employee to die at the refinery this year. In February, a contractor was electrocuted while working at the plant.
In addition to the company’s own internal review, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) this week began an investigation into the incident in conjunction with state and federal environmental agencies.
The fatal fire follows a series of other fires causing concern over the safety of oil refineries in the US. Earlier this month, a fire as a Shell chemical plant in Houston, Texas, burned for three days before it was put out. In March, the OSHA published a report accusing oil giant BP of ten “serious violations” of safety management at its US refineries after two employees died last year.