Authorities urge residents and business owners alike to call utility companies or a special hotline before beginning any work that requires digging to confirm the location of gas lines and other potential underground hazards. An OSHA investigation has determined that two utility contractors allegedly failed to take these necessary steps before commencing work and that these serious violations contributed to a Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, natural gas explosion in July 2018 in which a volunteer firefighter lost his life.
Law enforcement also investigated the case and found that, although miscommunication between utility contractors and subcontractors allegedly led to the improper marking of gas lines, there was no evidence of criminal wrongdoing. OSHA's investigation, concluded approximately six months after the explosion took place, nevertheless deemed the hazard a serious violation of safety standards due to its potential to cause an accident that would most likely result in serious physical harm or death.
Representatives of the two contracting companies failed to respond to messages asking for comments on the case, but each company now faces the maximum financial penalty that OSHA can impose: $12,934 in fines apiece.
In addition to claiming the life of a local volunteer firefighter, the explosion also leveled a part of the Sun Prairie downtown area. The contractor's alleged negligence and communication failure have affected the lives of many in this small Wisconsin community. Employees who have sustained injuries under unsafe workplace conditions may find it helpful to consult an attorney to discuss details of the case and determine if it would be appropriate to seek compensation.