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State report on Kansas City restaurant blast blames utility

While Pittsburg employers are responsible for the safety of workers, on-the-job accidents sometimes occur that cannot be blamed entirely on an employer. A factory employee injured while using a machine is covered under an employer's workers' compensation insurance. What if the cause of the injury is traced to a machine defect?

Third-party liability cannot be part of Kansas workers' compensation claims. The injured machine worker could request damages from the machine's designer or manufacturer through a civil lawsuit.

Fifteen people were injured and one person died last February during a Kansas City, Missouri, gas explosion. A construction crew, working outside a restaurant, accidentally struck a line that created a gas buildup. Utility crews were at Country Club Plaza, when the gas was ignited by a restaurant pilot light.

The devastating explosion and fire prompted several lawsuits and a state investigation into the utility's response to the gas leak. The state public service commission recently released its lengthy report about the blast. The safety regulators came down hard on the gas company.

According to the report, the utility broke state rules that apply to gas leak investigations. The commission said gas crews took over half an hour to enter the restaurant and did not convey the seriousness of the leak to customers and staff. Consequently, many occupants ignored recommendations to evacuate.

The report also said crews outside, where the unmarked gas line was hit, were in a danger zone. Some of the people injured in the blast were construction and gas company workers. The commission also criticized the utility for ineffectively identifying the extent of the leak.

The report may be used to support the commission's recommendation to fine the gas company. Utility officials plan to dispute the contents of the report.

Benefits are available for occupational injuries. In some cases, damages can be added when someone other than an employer causes a workplace injury accident.

Source: KCTV, "Missouri: Gas company's failures led to Plaza gas explosion" Chris Oberholtz, Eric Chaloux and DeAnn Smith, Feb. 06, 2014

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