OSHA cites Heartland Midwest and JJ's in Plaza explosion

Heartland Midwest and JJ's Restaurant each received citations after OSHA's investigation into the deadly explosion that killed one in February.

OSHA said it cited Heartland Midwest for a number of violations.

Included was a willful violation of the General Duty Clause for failing to provide its own employees with a workplace free of recognized hazards that were likely to cause death or serious bodily harm. Heartland Midwest was also cited for a willful violation of an OSHA standard for failing to ensure that all crew members were equipped with footwear that protected them from the hazard of electrocution while boring in the vicinity of underground electrical power lines.

Read Heartland Midwest's citations | http://1.usa.gov/15K0jht

Other citations included failing to ensure workers were qualified to operation a horizontal directional drill machine, instructing workers about buried lines and preventing workers from smoking in the vicinity of an uncontrolled gas release.

"There are a series of allegations in these citations that our employees lacked electrical proof boots. How did this contribute to cause this gas explosion?" Heartland's attorney Bradley Russell said. "Yet OSHA went out of its way to come up with these citations lacking in fact and law to allege that somewhere contributed to this outcome."

OSHA has recommended a $161,000 fine for Heartland Midwest. The business was also assigned to OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

Russell said they have no intention of accepting the allegations as truth.

OSHA cited JJ's Restaurant for having a deficient emergency action plan. OSHA proposed a $2,000 penalty for the citation. According to OSHA's report, the restaurant did not designate and train workers to assist in a safe and orderly evacuation. It also did not have a way to account for workers following an evacuation because of an emergency, like the explosion.

"JJ's employees successfully evacuated restaurant patrons and were in the process of evacuating themselves when the explosion occurred," JJ's Restaurant's attorney Steve Emerson said in a statement.

Read the JJ's Restaurant citation | http://1.usa.gov/1cQrIHp

Osha said its investigation was originally opened for Missouri Gas Energy, but the Missouri Public Safety Commission has jurisdiction over the utility company. The two partnered during the investigations.

Both companies have 15 business days to respond to the citations.

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