Safety and OSHA News

Company owner sentenced to 10-20 years in prison for worker deaths

The owner of a gunpowder plant that exploded and killed two employees will spend several years in prison for manslaughter.

Craig Sanborn of Maidstone, VT, was convicted in a New Hampshire court in connection with the May 2010 explosion at the Black Mag plant in Colebrook, NH. Sanborn was sentenced to 5 to 10 years on two counts of manslaughter, to be served consecutively, for a total of 10 to 20 years. Sanborn was also fined $10,000.

Jesse Kennett, 49, and Donald Kendall, 56, were killed, and a third employee was severely injured in the explosion.

The plant manufactured a gunpowder substitute.

OSHA had issued 54 citations (4 egregious, 12 willful, 36 serious and 2 other-than-serious) with total penalties of $1,232,500.

The four egregious citations were for failure to train each of the four workers involved in the manufacture of the gunpowder substitute. The fourth worker wasn’t at the plant at the time of the explosion.

The company entered an agreement with OSHA to settle the fines. Black Mag and Sanborn have agreed not to employ people to work with explosives. They also surrendered the company’s explosives manufacturing license.

Black Mag has certified that it terminated all production at the facility, which occurred when the explosion destroyed it and put the company out of business.

Violation of the settlement could mean more prison time for Sanborn.

‘Actions were criminal’

“The disregard for safety cost two workers their lives,” said OSHA chief David Michaels, “and this jury agreed that Craig Sanborn’s actions were criminal.

“It should drive home to employers this message: Worker safety can never be sacrificed for the benefit of production, and workers’ lives are not — and must never be — considered part of the cost of doing business.”

Prosecutors said Sanborn was reckless in manufacturing, testing and storing the black powder and failed to adequately train workers.

His lawyer had argued that Sanborn was out of town at the time of the explosion and it could have been caused by employee error or a piece of metal entering a machine.

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