Pipe Layer's Death in Trench Leads to $168,000 Penalty

OSHA initiated an investigation following the accident that occurred when two employees were installing storm water pipes in a trench that was approximately 60 feet long and 18-20 feet deep without trench protection, such as a trench box or proper sloping.

OSHA has cited Eclipse Builders Inc. in Etters, Pa., with three willful violations for exposing employees to trenching hazards after a trenching accident caused the death of one worker and the serious injury of another in December 2010. Proposed penalties total $168,000.

OSHA initiated an investigation following the accident that occurred when two employees were installing storm water pipes in a trench that was approximately 60 feet long and 18-20 feet deep without trench protection, such as a trench box or proper sloping. The trench wall collapsed, resulting in a fatality and the entrapment of another employee, who was rescued approximately five hours after the initial collapse.

Violations include the company's failure to provide a safe means of egress in trench excavations that were greater than 4 feet in depth and would require employees to travel no more than 25 feet laterally; provide protection by placing and keeping excavated or other materials or equipment at least 2 feet away from the edge of excavations; protect employees entering excavations from cave-ins with an adequate protective system; have a competent person conduct daily inspections of excavations, adjacent areas and protective systems to prevent the possibility of cave-ins, failure of protective systems, hazardous atmospheres, or other hazardous conditions; and provide training to employees in the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions applicable to the work environment.

"This tragic incident did not have to happen," said Kevin Kilp, director of OSHA's Harrisburg Area Office. "Excavating is recognized as one of the most hazardous construction operations, so it is vital that the company immediately comply with the OSHA standards designed to protect workers from these kinds of hazards."

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