Yesterday morning, one worker was killed and two others were injured in an explosion at the BP Piñon Compression Station in southwest Colorado.
Investigators are still working to determine the exact cause of the explosion. However, the La Plata County Sheriff's Department believes the explosion can be attributed to the failure of a pressurized device that was being sent through a natural gas pipeline to collect data.
The plant was shut down following the work accident. Investigators are still working to determine the extent of the damage; there is no word yet on when the plant will reopen.
Local authorities say that the plant operators have a close working relationship with area first responders. In fact, the Durango Fire & Rescue Authority regularly trains BP employees on disaster response strategies.
Negligence Not a Factor in Colorado Workers' Comp Benefits
Although it is reassuring to know that BP puts a priority on workplace safety, it is important to remember that employer negligence is not a factor in Colorado workers' compensation cases. Workers' compensation is a "no-fault" system; this means that injured workers are entitled to benefits even in cases where they employer went above and beyond to create a safe workplace. Similarly, injured workers cannot be denied benefits simply because they made a mistake that contributed to the accident.
These same rights extend to the families of workers who are killed in on-the-job accidents. Families have a right to seek death and dependency benefits when a worker is killed in an accident, regardless of who was at fault for causing the death.
This is not to say that negligence never plays a role in workers' compensation cases. If a third party (someone other than the employer or a co-worker) is found to have played a role in the accident, the worker may be able to seek personal injury damages in addition to workers' compensation benefits. For example, in this case, the injured workers may have a cause of action against the manufacturer of the failed device.
After a workplace injury, it is important to consult with an experienced Colorado workers' compensation attorney who can help you understand your rights.
Source: The Durango Herald, "One dead in explosion at BP compression station," Dale Rodebaugh & Shane Benjamin, June 25, 2012.