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OSHA fines contractors in Wisconsin blast that killed man

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has faulted two utility contractors for their part in an explosion that killed a volunteer firefighter and left two others injured.

The incident took place in July 2018 in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin.

In a letter to the two companies, OSHA labeled the violations as serious. The companies each were fined $12,934, the maximum the law allows.

OSHA's investigation found that the companies – one based in Kansas, the other in Michigan – were negligent because they didn't contact a diggers hotline or ask utility companies to mark underground lines before they started to dig.

Work crews were drilling a hole under Main and Bristol streets in Sun Prairie as they were taking part in a fiber communication line project on behalf of Verizon. A subcontractor put a hole in a gas line underground, which caused an explosion about 45 minutes later.

As a result, the volunteer firefighter was killed, five buildings were destroyed, several were damaged, and several residents were left homeless. Two volunteer firefighters also were injured.

Authorities announced in December that no criminal charges would be filed and blamed the accident on lack of communication between subcontractors and utility contractors.

The widow of the firefighter has filed a wrongful death suit in the case against the companies involved, and the firefighters who survived also have filed personal injury lawsuits.

This accident would have been avoided had proper procedures been followed. When undertaking a construction project, nothing ever should be left to chance. By the contractors not following protocols, a man is dead, and two others had their lives changed. The survivors have every right to pursue legal remedies through the court system.

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