Official: 'Having a job shouldn't cost someone their life' - | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

Official: 'Having a job shouldn't cost someone their life'


More than 70 investigators are still looking into the explosion in West, Texas last month that killed 14 people, injured more than 200 others, and is estimated to have caused more than $100 million in damage.

As the investigation continues, state officials are discussing the relationship between attracting new business to the state and providing governmental oversight.

In the wake of the explosion at the West Fertilizer Plant on April 17, State Senator Kevin Eltife says legislators have to carefully balance having a business-friendly environment and providing for the safety of employees.

"You always have to err on the side of caution when it comes to safety. Safety comes first," Eltife said in a phone interview. "But you can't, you can overkill with government regulation and run business out of the state, so it's a balancing act and I think Texas has done a great job."

Eltife points to surveys like those released on Monday in Chief Executive magazine. For the ninth straight year, Texas was named the best state to do business in - a survey of 736 CEOs named factors like taxation and regulation, quality of workforce and living environment.

"I think we have a happy medium in Texas," Eltife said.

"Texas has a large reputation for being business-friendly, and Texas is always open for business," said Elena Craft, a PhD toxicologist with the Texas Environmental Defense Fund. "I think one of the things that a tag line like that suggests is that we give deference to business almost over anything else, including safety and public health."

Craft says that's the wrong message for the state to send to businesses wanting to relocate to Texas.

"We need to make sure we're getting quality business as opposed to increasing the quantity of business," Craft said. "Having a job shouldn't cost someone their life, and I think we need to make sure that we're doing everything that we can to protect public health and safety with regard to the workplace."

Eltife said Texas lawmakers should wait for the results of the official investigation into the explosion before determining if any regulations need to be changed.

"What we ought to do is obviously wait for the results of any investigation and see what actually happened there, but we should definitely learn from our mistakes," Eltife said. "When you have a tragedy like that, we ought to look at it, and if there's a way we can do a better job in government, we should."

The state fire marshal's office says the investigation in West will continue for at least one to two more weeks.

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