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Bridge Company Fined in Worker’s Death

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

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A Pennsylvania bridge company is facing a $14,000 federal fine and two serious safety citations in the death of a worker who was crushed in a trench collapse in January.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued the penalties and violations June 29 against J.D. Eckman Inc., of Atglen, in the death of Michael Wilson, 20.

 Michael Wilson and family
An old family photo shows Michael Wilson (right) with his mother, Shirley; brother, Philip; and father, the Rev. Ricky Wilson.
 
Wilson was killed and his best friend and co-worker Otis Smother III, 21, was injured Jan. 4, when the walls collapsed in the trench where they were working. The two had been modifying a conduit their company had installed while rebuilding the Linden Street Bridge, in Allentown, PA.

It took 90 minutes to rescue Smother, who suffered a shoulder injury, and hours to recover Wilson’s body.

Wilson's father, the Rev. Ricky Wilson, told The Morning Call of Allentown that his father—Michael’s grandfather—had worked for J.D. Eckman for 51 years without a death on the job. Thus, Wilson said, he never worried about his son’s safety.

Wilson and Smother had been best friends for years and started work at the company on the same day.

“They were together at the end,” Wilson’s mother, Shirley, told a local TV station.

Lack of Training Alleged

Eckman, established in 1945, is a third-generation family-owned company with more than 400 employees. J.D. Eckman officials were unavailable for comment Wednesday.

OSHA accused the company of inadequate training and lack of a “competent person” to inspect the job site.

 The Linden Street Bridge

 J.D. Eckman Inc.

The Linden Street Bridge opened in 2009 and was being repaired when the accident occurred.

Two field-level supervisors who were designated as “competent person(s) did not comply with the requirements of this standard, as they were not trained to identify existing and predictable hazards while directing the removal of duct pack located 5’2” below finished grade,” OSHA records say.

In addition, the company allowed “employees who were inexperienced and untrained in the use of portable pneumatic jack hammers were operating the equipment in a manner exposing them to crushing hazards from unsupported debris,” OSHA said.

Citation History

In addition to the accident that took Wilson’s life, OSHA has cited Eckman 18 times since the beginning of 2006 for two dozen assorted Serious, Repeat and Other than Serious violations.

The company has 15 days to pay the fine and correct the violations; challenge the citations, or request a meeting with an OSHA area director.

   

Tagged categories: Accidents; Fatalities; Health and safety; Maintenance coating work; OSHA

Comment from Thomas Van Hooser, (7/7/2011, 5:49 AM)

Accidents like this will continue to happen until organizations adopt and practice viable safety programs that incorporates policies and procedures, hazard identification/risk assessments, training, management commitment, providing resources and establish safety accountability at all levels of supervision.


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