Kyle Huff Killed, 5 Injured in Refinery Fire Accident off Highway 136 near Borger, TX
UPDATE (February 8, 2023): One of the victims of the refinery accident has been identified as Kyle Huff; it is our sad duty to report that Mr. Huff succumbed to his injuries on January 22. The other victims have not yet been publicly identified and the circumstances of the incident are still under investigation.
Borger, TX -- January 17, 2023, at least six people were injured due to an accident where a fire broke out at a refinery.
Rescue teams with Borger and Hutchinson County were called to the site at around 10:15 a.m. Details in the news said the incident happened at a Phillips 66 refinery outside of Borger and Stinnett along Highway 136.
Right now, the cause of the accident is unclear. A fire broke out, sending at least six people to the hospital. Statements say four of those people were flown to Lubbock for treatment. At this time, no further information can be confirmed. However, I did look up the company named in the news as the one operating the site. They appear to subscribe to workers' comp, which typically means workers are guaranteed benefits following an accident. Naturally, the assumption would be that takes care of the victims and families affected by accidents like this. Unfortunately, it's often not as helpful as one would hope.
Put simply, the benefits workers are entitled to through workers' comp often barely allow them to scrape by if they have serious injuries. This is because benefits are capped as a percentage of the average weekly wage in Texas. This is a particularly bad deal for workers in the oil and gas industry, since they usually make more than the state average weekly wage. So, first their income is knocked down to below what they’re already making. Then, to make matters worse, they only get a percentage of that. It’s doubtful their creditors are going to knock their bills down to a percentage of what they were charging before, so this is how many injured workers end up in dire financial straits.
If the employer is solely responsible for their injuries, no matter how badly management screwed up, workers’ compensation is the bad deal oil and gas workers are stuck with. However, there are other factors to consider in a work accident. First, were the injured workers even employees? If not, workers’ compensation may not even apply. This sounds like a bad thing to most people, but not being stuck in the workers’ compensation system is a win for many injured workers. Another important avenue to explore is whether or not a defective part caused the fire. In those instances, the manufacturer of the defective part may be to blame. It’s also important to remember that outside contractors service many pieces of equipment. In those instances, they may bear some responsibility for what happened.
The point in all of this is that waiting for OSHA to save the day is a bad strategy. It’s also difficult to appreciate all the moving parts and potential bad actors that lead to a work injury. Hopefully, these workers aren’t badly hurt, because our workers’ compensation system isn’t set up to deal with serious injuries that can occur in more dangerous industries.