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OSHA reports safety violations led to deadly trench collapse

Pennsylvania workers may wish to know that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued 10 safety violations to a New Jersey landscaping company in connection with a deadly trench collapse in October 2014. The agency is recommending fines totaling $77,000.

On Oct. 1, 2014, two men employed by Bednar Landscape Services Inc. were installing a French drain system at a historic farm in Boonton, New Jersey, when the trench they were in collapsed, trapping them. Both workers died. OSHA's investigation found that the trench had no cave-in protection even though it was up to 13 feet in depth. The agency requires all trenches 5 feet or deeper to be protected with a trench box or sloping walls.

An OSHA representative said that one cubic yard of soil can equal the weight of a small car, and that the company needlessly placed its workers in mortal danger by not following regulations. The landscape company was issued a willful citation for not protecting the trench workers. A willful violation is given when a company knowingly, intentionally or voluntarily disobeys a regulation with plain indifference to worker safety. It was also issued serious violations for failing to provide a trench ladder at 25-foot intervals, not having the trench inspected by a competent person, not providing head protection to workers and other violations. OSHA reports that two workers are killed every month in trench collapses. A representative for the agency said workers should never enter an unprotected trench.

When workplace accidents occur, most Pennsylvania employees have access to workers' compensation benefits provided by their employer. These benefits are designed to cover medical expenses and a portion of a worker's wages as they recover from an injury. In order to ensure that the claim is properly filed, an injured worker may find it helpful to seek the assistance of an attorney.

Source: EHS Today, "OSHA: Lack of Cave-In Protections Led to Trench Collapse," Sandy Smith, April 10, 2015

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