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Two teens die on Illinois farm; OSHA says companies not to blame

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) deemed that two companies are not at fault for the deaths of two 14-year-old girls in Illinois. The two teenagers lost their lives after being electrocuted while working as field hands near an irrigation system. OSHA will not be citing R&J Enterprises or Monsanto, the two companies overseeing the farm where the deaths occurred, for negligence relating to this accident.

After the accident, one of the girls' fathers has filed a wrongful death suit against the two companies and the landowners. He plans to pursue the lawsuit, despite the recent OSHA decision.

The six-month investigation by the federal agency came to the conclusion that a field irrigation system had been struck by lightning. Later, the girls came in contact with the system and were shocked to death. According to OSHA, there was no way Monsanto or R&J Enterprises could have prevented the fatal accident.

The attorney for the plaintiffs in the wrongful death suit is not happy with the decision made by OSHA. According to him, there are things that could have been done to prevent these tragic deaths, but the companies failed to act. So, they plan to press forward to seek justice for the families' losses.

What's more, the farm's owner claimed a local electrician was contacted to check out the irrigator after a lightning strike was reported. However, local electricians denied that they were contacted about the unsafe equipment prior to the accident. These statements from the electricians suggest that the landowners knew about a potential threat, but did not take action.

The tragedy has left both families upset, wondering what exactly went wrong and why their daughters were the ones to die. It is the responsibility of an employer to keep their workers safe and advise them of necessary safety measures. If there was a foreseeable way to prevent this, then why wasn't it possible for Monsanto, R&J Enterprises or the landowners to do something?

Source: Quad-City Times, "OSHA: No citations in detasseling deaths," Brian Wellner, Jan. 25, 2012

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