One of the three workers injured by the fires and explosions on the Mobile River in Alabama last April has filed a work accident claim. Seven separate explosions occurred between 8:30 p.m. and 2:30 a.m. during the accident. All three workers were brought to USA Medical to be treated for job-related injuries sustained from the explosions that took place on the fuel barges they were working on, but so far only one worker has proceeded with a work accident claim.
Preliminary findings recently released by the Coast Guard indicate that the explosions occurred when fuel vapors from the barges entered the engine room of a tug boat passing by. The vapors started a small fire in the tugboat's engine room which traveled back to the fuel barges. The fire then ignited the heavier concentrations of flammable vapors found on the fuel barges resulting in one of the most potentially catastrophic workplace accidents to occur in the Mobile River area.
Workers were cleaning the cargo tanks on the fuel barges when the accident occurred. The cleaning procedure requires mechanical blowers to ventilate the tanks and remove the flammable vapors. During the cleaning process taking place on the night of the explosions, the workers found that one of the mechanical blowers was not working and needed to shut all of them down in order to make repairs. The absence of adequate ventilation may have played a critical role in lessening worker safety on the fuel barge.
Compensation for injuries suffered while working on the job is often limited to coverage by workers' compensation. The worker may not always be able to initiate a personal injury lawsuit against his or her employer. In the case of an interconnected chain of events, such as the series of fires and explosions which took place on the Mobile River in Alabama last April, the liability may be traced to other parties. If it is proven that a party other than the employer contributed to the work accident and injuries that resulted, workers can receive compensation for damages through third-party liability claims.
FOX6 WBRC, "Coast Guard: Tugboat sparked April barge explosion," June 17, 2013