Who is to blame for the Tianjin chemical blast?

On 12 August 2015, an explosion took place in the dangerous goods warehouse of ‘Ruihai Logistics’ company in the eastern port city in Tianjin, China. It is one of the mort severe disasters in the recent 50 years in China. The chemical blast directly led to the death of 173 people and the loss of 6.9 billion RMB (£806 million). There are 49 people jailed after the disaster including the staff of the company and the government officials. In this blast, the company ‘Ruihai Logistics’ and the relative departments of the Chinese government should take most of the responsibility.

The department of supervision should take the responsibility of this disaster.

In reality, in a 2004 government document, the warehouse building is recorded as a hazardous chemical storage facility for calcium carbide, sodium nitrate, and potassium nitrate. Since the explosion, the Ruihai warehouse stored 2500 tons of hazardous chemicals including 70 tons of sodium cyanide which was more than 70 times the legal limit. In addition, based on safety regulations of china, the distance between the public building and the hazardous facility should be at least 1 kilometre.

However, the government officials approved Ruihai’s bid to build a hazardous chemical warehouse in the port even though they knew the location broke safety regulations and helped the company to pass the safety check. There were 123 government workers in connection with the explosion, citing dereliction of duty. They worked in Tianjin Port, Tianjin Transport Commission, Tianjin Maritime Safety Administration and Tianjin Deputy Custom. Meanwhile, they failed to detect “illegal activity” and safety issues around its handling of hazardous material. Additionally, most of the government workers accepted bribery which broke the laws and regulations and inaccurate information recorded in documents also led that rescue department failed to learn the materials of storage at the beginning of the blast. Finally, there were 23 firemen killed.

The other reason why 23 firemen killed was the improper command, control, and coordination of emergency response. Different with some developed countries, China lacked an incident command system which is flexible. In this case, the weakness in incident management was exposed such as lack of accountability, including unclear chains of command and supervision and lack of authoritative, credible, unified information channel leading a large number of rumours appeared online. In addition, compared with professional firemen in the USA and Europe, firemen of China are solids and they lack experiences to response emergency and lack professional practice.

Virtue ethics: for officials, they should be honest and upright, for incident commander, they should be professional.

Kant: government needs to improve communication among government departments and to crack down on companies that violated safety rules and on corruption.

Utilitarianism: government should arrange houses for residents who cannot return home and set an authoritative information channel to receive suggestions and criticism.

All in all, corruption, dereliction of duty, abuse of power and improper emergency assistance provided and the way of the aftermath showed that the department of supervision should take the responsibility of this disaster.

The company ‘Ruihai Logistics’ should take the responsibility of this disaster

The chemical blast took place in Tianjin due to the self-ignition of chemicals that is nitro cotton. The fire was not controlled timely, which resulted in the burning of other dangerous chemicals so that the explosion happened. Actually, there is a second explosion happening after the first one and the second explosion is much severer than the first. The company ‘Ruihai Logistic’ should act properly for this disaster and take the responsibility of it.

There are several problems that can potentially lead to the blast in terms of the company. Firstly, the company built the dangerous warehouse without the permission of the government. Meanwhile, they did not follow the fire-protection code even though they all knew that the goods are easy to burn. What is more, the staff in the company did not monitor the dangerous goods house for 24 hours a day. Thus, when the fire happened, the staff such as security specialists did not respond to it immediately. If the fire can be controlled when the nitro cotton self-ignited, the explosion would not take place.

The stakeholders in this disaster include the residents and the companies near the blast as well as the firefighters involved in the blast. In this disaster, many residents injured and lost their properties such as houses and cars. The company should make apologies to the affected residents and compensate for the money that the residents had lost. Moreover, other companies near company ‘Ruihai Logistic’ should be compensated for their loss. One of the stakeholders that are probably neglected is the firefighters involved in the blast. They contributed greatly to put out the fire and some of them died in the blast. The company should definitely take the responsibility of caring the parents of the firefighters who died due to the disaster.

The options of actions that the company ‘Ruihai Logistic’ should take are listed below.

  • Standardising the operation management of employees.
  • Safety education and training for employees.
  • Strictly following the related laws.
  • Strengthening the warehouse monitoring system.
  • Developing detailed contingency plans.
  • Correcting warning signs for different chemical dangerous goods.

For the evaluation of the actions, firstly, standardising the operation management and safety training are both necessary actions. These two actions are codes of conduct which must be compliance with by employees, especially for those have dangerous work. Every enterprise needs to legally operate and strengthen their own management system so that they can avoid accidents. Victims involved in this accident need comfort and compensation, this is the responsibility of the enterprise.

Overall, “Ruihai Logistics” company should take the greatest responsibility for this accident. At the same time, the problem of the victim should be properly handled.


7 thoughts on “Who is to blame for the Tianjin chemical blast?

    1. No, I do not agree with you. The dangerous goods warehouse must be supervised by the government. Thus, I think the government should take the most of the responsibility.


    1. This article does reflect who should be responsible for the blast. However, the actions that should be taken by the government and the company are not specific and clear.


  1. What is the following story about this matter? The government’s attitude is more important because it is the actions for preventing similar events that matters. This article has some critical views on it, but there may be responsibility shirking even during the rescuing process. Otherwise, the hazard should be controlled in a smaller range.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What about the wounded and dead firemen? It is said that firemen caused the second explosion because the water they used. Who should be blamed for this?


  3. I am still interested in the local effects of dust pollution caused by the explosion. First of all, many studies have shown that the incident has a short-term impact on dust pollution, such as 2010 Iceland volcanic eruption led to the London airport outage on the local NOx pollution index have a certain impact. In the case of particulates, the fire increases the amount of particulate matter and contaminants in the air after the explosion, but it also has a great deal of relevance to the layout, geographical and meteorological conditions of the local air monitoring station. China in this respect with the Western countries is a big gap.

    Liked by 1 person

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