Pa. Firm Fined $48,500 Following Worker's Trench Entrapment

OSHA has cited J.L. Fink Inc. for one alleged willful and six serious safety and health violations at its worksite in Hollidaysburg, Pa., proposing a total of $48,500 in penalties. The agency's Pittsburgh Area Office initiated an investigation May 11 after being notified by Blair County Search and Rescue that a worker installing a sewer line was trapped in a trench.

"The lack of cave-in protection leaves employees at grave risk of injury or death due to trench cave-ins," said Robert Szymanski, OSHA's Pittsburgh Area director. "Excavation contractors must take the appropriate steps in accordance with OSHA's construction standards to ensure they are digging trenches and not graves."

The agency issued a willful citation for the company's failing to provide cave-in protection for employees working in a trench excavation six feet deep with vertical walls. Cave-in protective systems can include sloping and benching of the soil of various shoring methods to prevent soil collapse, as well as the use of trench shields, OSHA noted. The agency defines a willful violation as one committed with intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

The serious violations include the company's failure to initiate and implement an accident prevention program, adequately inspect the jobsite, and instruct employees in the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions and regulations at the site, as well as failure to provide a means of egress from the trench. A serious violation is one in which there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director in Pittsburgh, or contest the citations and the proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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