TexasAn occupational safety organization says last week’s deadly fertilizer plant explosion in Texas is the result of that state’s anti-regulatory environment.

The explosion at the West Fertilizer Company killed 14 people and injured many more. It also caused massive destruction in the area around the facility, leveling an estimated 80 homes and severely damaging an apartment complex and nursing home.

In a statement, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) said Texas’ “widespread disregard for workers’ well-being is clearly evidenced in the state’s consistently high rate of on-the-job fatalities.”

Texas consistently has a worker fatality rate double that of California, a state to which Texas Governor Rick Perry traveled in February in order to lure businesses to the Lone Star State.

During a press conference there, Perry used his state’s lack of government regulation as a selling point.

“Last week’s tragic explosion portrays what can – and does – happen to workers and communities when a priority on profits outweighs public health and safety,” said Tom O’Connor, executive director of National COSH.

According to the group:

  • From 2008 through 2011, 1,839 workers were killed on the job in Texas, compared to 1,560 in California, despite California having a population some 40 percent greater than Texas.  
  • If Texas’s worker fatality rate were the same as California’s during this four-year period, some 795 Texas workers who were killed on the job would still be alive. 
  • California, like Texas, has a complex, diverse economy with great number of workers employed in some of the most dangerous industries: agriculture, construction, oil/gas exploration and refining, and logging. California also has a huge and diverse foreign-born worker population, which is known to be more vulnerable to workplace injury and death. California also suffered through a grave financial crisis during this period, which reduced its staffing levels and left its OSHA program severely understaffed.  

“Lack of employer compliance with OSHA regulations, not just hazardous work, is responsible for many of these worker deaths in the Lone Star State,” said National COSH in the statement. “A recent analysis by the San Antonio Express found in an investigation of oil field deaths in South Texas that in every case, employers had violated one or more OSHA safety standards.