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.

24 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

    1. Yes. I do agree with you. But the main point in this article is about the responsibility and the moral and ethic issues. Can you give us some comments on this aspect?


  4. This is an interesting and insightful article. I am particular interested in the actions that the company should take. You said the company should improve the operation management system. But how can it happen if there is no such kind of regulation in the company as well as the government?


  5. You should watch videos of what happens when tanks are penetrated by anti-tank weapons. They start cooking and exploding.

    Now think of the scale of huge warehouses in Tianjin, packed with chemicals improperly stored, next to each other. You do not want to be near it when it starts “cooking” due to exposure to something (like water!) that might create a chemical reaction.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Author: Akiyama
    Link: https: //www.zhihu.com/question/34515683/answer/59034424
    Source: Knowing
    The copyright belongs to the author. For business reprint please contact the author to obtain authorization, non-commercial reprint please indicate the source.

    One, the pursuit of fire Do not forget, this is a fire caused by the explosion of this matter out of the first one should check is the fire – the original plant and the surrounding building fire acceptance is how? Is there any water Fire prevention and acceptance of how to become a cash cow “fire corruption” fierce fire in Tianjin, the development of real estate management of non-custody of his father served as a provincial party committee leader of the Tianjin Fire Brigade of the original political commissar Xu Hao yuan bribery 240,000 complaints in the field of building fire inspection has always been greedy Rotten the affected areas, those who fat the flow of oil people borers all the time to their own fire brigade soldiers dug one another hidden dilemma of the trap, and then after the accident to find the propaganda department to sing praise the young ladies blood sacrifice, with one after another Of the blood of the bread to their own corruption to build a security wall. Second, the integrity of the safety supervision is responsible for the safety supervision of the direct management of the department, in the field of production safety supervision, whether national budget or local budget is increasing, but many government departments, like financial attention Whether it is transformed into a real progress, and now the whole of China’s safe production training base construction is not played a role in enhancing the safety of production? But also and the “animation industry base”, “cultural industry base” as another “business” to change the pattern of money? Here I propose: the requirements of the Tianjin Municipal Bureau of Safety Production announced in recent years, all the government bidding project financial investment and the successful unit, by the relevant agencies for each government to implement the project and scientific research results to conduct a thorough investigation See the state investment, taxpayers are used in what taxes, what quality!


    1. Actually, I cannot understand what you are talking about. If you can reorganise your language maybe it would be better.


  7. In China,there is a TV series very popular which name is the name of people. In thie series, it talked about corruption in a province from vice chairman to a small officer. Every one receive other money illeagly Actually, corruption looks like a normal phenomenon. The most important thing is to think about how to reduce corruption happen. ALthough there are less corruption now and many officers have been arrested, even including some vice retired presidents. But now in china it is one party to control. It is hard to divide Executive power, judicial power, legislative power seperately. Thus I think china should improve the status of the regulatory authority to supervise the operational activities of the government. Then it should prevent the possible tragedy to build up some law and train technicians in the future.


    1. I do agree with you that the government should raise their awareness. However, we cannot change the situation of government within a short period o time. Thus, I think as one of the citizens in China, we should start to take the responsibility for the society now. That is most efficient way to avoid this type of disasters.


  8. i agree with the point that the government should take the responsibility to this accident. because the Ruihai Logistics can be closed very easily by government measure, but there will appear other companies follow the same of disastrous road, if there are not changes in government sysytem.


  9. Tianjin port, as a large vehicle import port in China, whether the explosion have a significant impact on the future import and export of vehicles?

    According to the relevant news reports, the explosion of the Tianjin port caused a huge damage to the automobile warehouses nearby, thousands of cars damaged or even scrapped. This situation raised a series of questions– how were these damaged vehicles handled? Who is responsible for these damaged vehicles? And the core issue – would this explosion have an impact on the future import and export trade of Tianjin Port? It seems your have not mentioned the problem in your report, I would like to know have you done a related investigation about this? I am curious about how government deal with this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is really a big problem, and I’m sorry we did not take this problem into account. But it is said that most of the losses are compensated by the insurance company. And for those cars which still work have been sold at a low price.


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