Please note: As of January 20, 2021, information in some news releases may be out of date or not reflect current policies.

News Release

U.S. Department of Labor Cites Utility Contractors Following Fatal Explosion in Wisconsin

SUN PRAIRIE, WI – An investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) into an explosion and fire in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, found that two utility contractors ­ – Bear Communications LLC of Lawrence, Kansas, and subcontractor V C Tech Inc. of Ypsilanti, Michigan­ – failed to establish the location of underground utilities prior to beginning excavation work.

An explosion and fire occurred in July 2018 when an underground gas line was struck by excavating equipment. A volunteer firefighter responding to the incident was fatally injured. OSHA inspectors determined that neither contractor contacted the underground utility owners or the local one-call system. Both companies were issued a serious safety violation, and face penalties of $12,934 each – the maximum penalty allowed.

“Excavators are required to train their employees on procedures for determining the location of underground utilities, and contact the utility company before opening an excavation” said Madison Office Area Director Chad Greenwood.

Both companies have 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.  See citations issued to Bear Communications LLC here and V C Tech Inc. here.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit

Occupational Safety & Health Administration
January 10, 2019
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Media Contact: Scott Allen
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Media Contact: Rhonda Burke
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