‘The best we can hope for is that we learn something’: How explosion may prompt industry changes

‘The best we can hope for is that we learn something’: How explosion may prompt industry changes

As two utility contractors face penalties from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for their role in the Sun Prairie explosion, a local expert says it sends a message to contractors across the state.

Bear Communications and subcontractor VC Tech face nearly $13,000 each, the maximum penalty allowed.

OSHA has found neither contractor involved properly established where underground utilities were before beginning work in Sun Prairie.

Randy Way, an associate dean in the School of Applied Science, Engineering and Technology at Madison College, said the OSHA decision makes it clear the explosion should not have happened.

“They’re using their citation authority to make that clear to these contractors and all the other contractors that are watching this unfold,” he said.

Way explained because of a change in subcontractors, there was a miscommunication about location markings that no one saw coming.

“We may learn things about how this chain of causation came together that may change the practice in the industry, and that at this point is the best we can hope for, is that we learn something from this and there’s some change or rule in procedure in the industry that anticipates an event like this might happen again and prevents it,” he said.

State Rep. Gary Hebl, of Sun Prairie, is planning to draft legislation that would change regulations when marking utility lines.

Way said now that police have concluded nothing criminal has taken place, the State Fire Marshall Office laid out the sequence of events and most recently OSHA has concluded its workplace safety investigation, the next thing to expect is civil proceedings.

Abby Barr, the widow of fire Capt. Cory Barr, who died in the explosion, has filed a lawsuit, along with two injured firefighters.

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