Suits Them

The widow of a contractor who was killed last month at BP's Texas City refinery -- the 19th person to die there since 2004 -- is suing the company and the plant manager, alleging her husband's death was "a direct result of the broken safety culture which has existed and continues to exist" at the facility, according to a lawsuit filed last week in Galveston County District Court.

Richard Liening, who worked as an electrician for Amex Electrical Services, was electrocuted while working on a lighting system at the BP refinery.

According to the lawsuit:

The system was supposed to be de-energized, but apparently was not. Liening's widow, Cynthia Liening, says that BP violated both its internal operating procedures and as well as standards imposed by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration by not following proper electrical lock-out procedures. As a result, Richard Liening believed the equipment was safe.

Both BP and OSHA are investigating what medical examiners have called an accident.

Liening was the 19th person killed at the Texas City refinery in the last three years. In 2004, two people died after being burned with water; 15 people died in a 2005 explosion; and a contractor died in 2006 while using a motorized lift bucket, according to news reports.

The refinery has received considerable scrutiny over the rash of deaths. After the 2005 explosion, both an internal BP investigation and an independent one led by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III concluded that the safety culture at the facility was lacking. Read the initial Houston Chronicle story here.

Since then, BP has pledged to spend more than $1 billion to improve safety at the plant, according to a story at

But this latest death and lawsuit make us wonder, how many times can lightning strike the same place? – Chris Vogel

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