Wisconsin Company Fined in Worker’s Forklift Death

Bong Bridge, the site of the fatal accident (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Bong Bridge, the site of the fatal accident (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

An 18-year-old day laborer was killed by an untrained, unauthorized forklift operator and now the company that employed the two workers has been fined more than $100,000, federal safety officials announced last week.

The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced March 15 that Lunda Construction, of Black River Falls, Wisconsin, faces up to $105,000 in fines in connection with the fatal workplace accident, which occurred on the Bong Bridge, which spans St. Louis Bay and connects the cities of Duluth and Superior, Minnesota.

Two Workers Struck by Forklift

On Sept. 21, Kelsey Hagenson, 18, of Stanley, Wisconsin, was working as a carpenter’s apprentice mixing concrete on the bridge as part of a $18.2 million reconstruction project when he was struck and killed by a forklift driven by another Lunda employee. A second worker also was struck and injured by the forklift operator, but survived.

Neither Hagenson nor the other injured worker was operating the forklift at the time, according to investigators.

Unauthorized, Untrained Operator

After investigating the fatal accident, OSHA determined that Lunda had allowed the forklift driver to operate the vehicle even though he had a physical restriction specifying no use of his right hand. The operator also lacked adequate training on how to drive the rough-terrain forklift.

The incident was the third fatal accident involving Lunda Construction highway projects and the ninth time the company was cited by the federal agency. OSHA placed the company on its Severe Violator Enforcement Program list that identifies businesses “who show indifference toward safety standards by committing willful, repeated, or failure-to-abate” violations,” according to Mark Hysell, OSHA’s area director in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.an

“This young man was fresh out of high school with a lifetime ahead of him,” Hysell said in an OSHA news release. “His family and friends are left with pain and grief because this man’s employer failed to keep him and his co-workers safe. Lunda has a dismal safety record. OSHA will continue to monitor and inspect Lunda sites until the company does the right thing and makes worker safety a priority on its job sites.”

Recent High School Graduate

Hagenson, who went by the nickname “Bug”, had graduated from Stanely-Boyd High School in Stanley only a few months before the fatal accident. He was a fan of hunting, fishing, and four-wheeling, according to his obituary.

Other Lunda violations cited by OSHA included:

  • Workers lacked the training to recognize hazards and unsafe conditions while operating vehicles
  • Vehicles were not inspected prior to being placed in service
  • Workers drove vehicles at unsafe speeds and too close to employees standing in front of fixed objects.
  • The company failed to include plans for prompt medical attention in case of serious injury prior to starting the project.

Lunda, which has about 920 employees, has 15 business days to comply, request a hearing, or contest the OSHA’s finding.




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