Gunpowder plant owner sentenced to prison

The owner of a New Hampshire gunpowder plant has been sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison for a 2010 explosion at his facility that killed two workers.

Craig Sanborn was convicted on manslaughter charges last month and sentenced on Wednesday for the explosion.

Federal work safety officials cheered the decision.

“The disregard for safety cost two workers their lives, and this jury agreed that Craig Sanborn’s actions were criminal,” David Michaels, head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), said in a statement after the sentencing.

“His criminal conviction and sentence won’t bring these men back to life, but it will keep him from putting workers' lives in peril. And 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.”

The May 2010 blast at the Black Mag plant killed two employees who were making a gunpowder substitute called Black Mag power.

Officials said that the explosion could have been prevented had workers not been required to feed powder into operating equipment by hand or if the company had created some protective barriers and shielding, among other methods. 

OSHA investigated the plant after the incident, and issued 54 workplace safety and health citations and a $1.2 million penalty. Sanborn was also forced to surrender his explosives manufacturing license and barred from hiring workers for any other explosives-related businesses.

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