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Update: OSHA slams Kansas utility for fatal gas explosion

A relative's sudden injury or death in an accident sends families reeling. The shock is magnified when a family member dies or becomes injured on the job. Workers' compensation benefits provide some solace for victims and families, but legal action may be necessary to recover damages when a third-party is involved.

Mobile workplaces relocate employees beyond the confines of an employer's brick and mortar location and into areas where other people can be hurt when something goes awry. That was the situation in Kansas City last winter when a drilling crew was working along a city street.

A woman inside a restaurant died and three Heartland Midwest LLC employees were injured following a blast and fire. A U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation traced the tragedy to a leaking, underground gas line that was struck by a worker's drill.

Federal safety regulators have come down hard on the drilling company in a recent report. OSHA blamed Heartland Midwest for safety violations related to the deadly explosion. The federal agency wants the company to pay more than $160,000 in fines for unsafe working conditions.

OSHA believes the on-site employees were improperly trained and dressed for the job of laying fiber optic cable. Among other violations, the report alleged employees were not wearing electrocution-preventing footwear.

An additional $2,000 fine was recommended against the restaurant where a 46-year-old employee died of thermal burns. The restaurant was faulted for not having a safety plan in case of emergencies.

The companies may pay the recommended fines or dispute OSHA's charges. An attorney for Heartland indicated that the drilling business would fight the allegations.

Workers' compensation benefits are available for accident victims injured in the workplace and families of employees who die on duty. Recovery for harm to non-employees or surviving family members occurs through insurers or, when compensation is in dispute, liability settlements or jury awards.

Source:  kmbc.com, "OSHA cites Heartland Midwest, JJ's Restaurant in deadly blast" No Author Given, Aug. 15, 2013

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