A worker injured Oct. 16 in a tanker truck explosion at a Glenville asphalt plant died two days later at Westchester Medical Center. Joe Nichols, 56, who lived in Amsterdam, had worked at Mohawk Asphalt Emulsions for 24 years. According to initial reports, a valve on a tanker truck heated up while the truck was being loaded with a commonly used mix of kerosene and asphalt. The heat ignited vapors and caused the blast. Three workers in all were initially taken to the hospital after the explosion - along with Nichols, there was another worker who was in critical but stable condition and a third who is expected to quickly make a full recovery.
Kerosene is generally mixed with asphalt to keep the latter from hardening. Asphalt is a composite material that is generally used for the surface of roads, parking lots and airplane landing strips. Raising the mix to a temperature of 300 Fahrenheit allows it to then be poured out for roadbeds.
Inspectors from Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) were immediately sent to the site of the accident to determine the cause and whether there were any safety violations that led to the accident and injuries. Investigations can take up to six months, but Mohawk Asphalt Emulsions has not been cited by OSHA previously, though it has been fined $1,500 for a work zone safety violation during a paving project in Vermont.
The Glenville tragedy follows on the heels of another asphalt plant explosion before dawn on September 14 in Corpus Christie, Texas. This time another worker died and one was seriously injured in an explosion and a blaze that took firefighters an hour to extinguish.
It is too early to draw conclusions as to the cause of these explosions. But those involved - either the injured or the deceased's family -- are already dealing with the cataclysmic ramifications of these industrial accidents.
The first order of business is to see a doctor for treatment and to document your medical needs and expenses. It is a smart course of action to follow this up by contacting an attorney skilled in the areas of personal injury. Workers have a right to compensation for injuries sustained on the job. This isn't just to cover medical expenses and lost wages, but future wages and mental stress that come from surviving such a life-changing event.