OSHA fines Bednar Landscape $77K for trench collapse

April 6, 2015 -  By

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) proposed a $77,000 penalty to Bednar Landscape Services, located in Boonton, N.J., as repercussions for a trench cave-in that killed two workers, Oscar Portillo and Selvin Zelaya.

OSHA initiated an inspection of the incidence on Oct. 1.

The day of the incident, Portillo and Zelaya were installing a French drain system at the James Dixon Farm in Boonton. They were working in a trench between 9 and 13 feet deep, which had no cave-in protection, OSHA determined— OSHA requires all trenches and excavation sites 5 feet or deeper be protected against sidewall collapses. As a result, Bednar Landscape Services was found responsible for one willful and nine serious safety violations.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, request a conference with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

The willful citation was due to the trench not being adequately sloped, protected by shields or shoring. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirement, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

The serious violations included not providing a ladder in the trench every 25 feet to allow safe exit, not having a competent person inspect the trench, failure to have utilities marked out, provide head protection and train workers on the hazards of the chemicals with which they worked. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

“Sadly, this is not an isolated incident. The fact that two workers are killed each month in trench collapses underscores how important cave-in protections are,” said Robert Kulick, OSHA regional administrator in New York. “An unprotected trench can be a death trap and should never be entered. There are several ways to protect people who work in trenches, and trenches should be inspected at the start of each shift and as needed throughout the work day by trained professionals.”

For more information on trenching and excavation safety, visit OSHA.gov.

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