OSHA Cites Wagner Companies Following Trench Fatality

OSHA takes trenching dangers seriously, as witnessed by the $382,875 penalty the agency has proposed for hazards at the Trinity Park Project in western Pennsylvania.

OSHA cited Wagner Development Company Inc. and Wagner Excavation Services, Inc. following a fatality investigation. According to OSHA, the companies failed to protect workers from trenching hazards that led to the death of one employee and injury to a second worker at the storm sewer project.

OSHA cited the companies for a total of seven alleged willful violations for failing to provide cave-in protection to employees working at the Trinity Park Storm Water Project in North Franklin Township, Pa., on seven separate days last June. The agency identified an additional five alleged serious violations involving trench safety, personal protective equipment and overhead power lines.

"This tragic death could have been avoided. It strengthens our resolve to protect the health and safety of America's workers, as demonstrated by the significant penalty of $382,875 proposed in this case," said Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao.

On June 29, 2004, OSHA learned of the death of one worker and the injury of another and began an investigation of a trench wall collapse at the Trinity Park Project site. The agency determined that on at least seven dates in June, the Wagner Companies had allowed unprotected employees to work in unshored, unsloped trenches in unstable soil, facing the risk of collapse.

The willful violations were issued because OSHA staff had specifically discussed trenching safety requirements with company owners and the foreman during an earlier inspection in February 2004. Further, the company had rented a trench box after an earlier trench collapse at the site that could have protected the workers, but it was lying unused nearby.

Proposed penalties for the seven alleged willful citations total $367,500, while proposed penalties for the five alleged serious violations total $15,375. A willful violation is defined as an intentional disregard of or plain indifference to the OSHA law and regulations. A serious violation is issued when death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

The Wagner Companies have 15 working days from receipt of the citations to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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