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OSHA assesses fines in deadly KC restaurant explosion

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration located in Kansas City has announced that it is seeking fines against two companies in connection with the deadly explosion earlier this year of restaurant close to the Country Club Plaza, a busy outdoor shopping facility in Kansas City, Missouri. The explosion left one restaurant employee dead and several other people with injuries.

The accident occurred when a cable company employee accidentally drilled through a gas line while doing underground cable work. The ensuing gas leak caused the explosion that flattened the restaurant. Fortunately, employees of the restaurant managed to get their customers outside and away from the building before the gas leak triggered the explosion.

Nevertheless, the restaurant received a penalty of $2,000 for not having an adequate emergency plan in place to protect its workers. The restaurant responded that it had focused on getting its customers out and had done so successfully but did not have time to evacuate the employees before the explosion.

The cable company received a much harsher assessment of $161,000 for certain "willful violations" and "serious violations" of workplace safety regulations. The company was also labeled a "serious violator". The cable company disputes the allegations, saying that the gas company did not give them the correct information about the nearby gas line that the cable company punctured.

OSHA accused the cable company of not protecting its workers from "recognized hazards" by requiring them to drill in an area near the gas lines. Moreover, OSHA also said that the cable company had not properly trained its workers, and one person who was operating the drill could not read the instruction manual because he spoke no English.

The gas company is not subject to OSHA's investigation but faces an inquiry from a state agency that regulates utilities.

Those employees in Missouri who have ben injured on account of a workplace hazard may be able to get financial help through Missouri's workers' compensation system.

Source: timesleader.com, "Fines levied after fatal blast levels Mo. eatery," Aug. 15, 2013

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