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Trench Death Leads to Willful Citations

Thursday, January 7, 2016

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A northcentral Pennsylvania company faces $140,000 in fines after a worker was killed in a trench during a bridge renovation project last summer.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Susquehanna Supply Company Inc. on Dec. 30 with two willful violations at $70,000 apiece for the death of 37-year-old Richard Gold. Gold was working July 7 in a trench that OSHA said did not have proper cave-in protection.

Susquehanna Supply Company, of Williamsport, PA, had been contracted by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to rehabilitate a small steel-frame bridge just outside Little Fishing Creek on state Route 4021—also known as Eyers Grove Road—in Millville, according to a statement the agency released Jan. 4.

Violations History

According to OSHA, the company has an extensive history of violations leading back to the 1970s.

©iStock.com / tinabelle

OSHA officials say an employee of Susquehanna Supply Company died after soil buried him while he was hand-digging a trench that did not have adequate cave-in protection.

“Susquehanna Supply Company took unacceptable risks with its workers’ lives by failing to comply with common-sense safety practices intended to prevent trenching tragedies such as this from occurring,” said Mark Stelmack, director of OSHA’s Wilkes-Barre, PA, office.

“Employers who expose workers to cave-in hazards from an unprotected trench place those employee’s lives in immediate jeopardy.”

Company Response

But the owner of the company said it does take its workers’ safety seriously and has taken steps to prevent such accidents from happening in the future.

“It's awful,” Susquehanna Supply Company president Timothy Crotty told the Williamsport Sun-Gazette (subscription only). “[Gold] was a good kid.

“We are in the process of responding to [OSHA’s citations] right now,” he said Tuesday (Jan. 5). “We are going to set up an informal conference (with the Department of Labor).”

Incident Details

OSHA said in its statement that Gold was working inside a trench outside the bridge abutment that was between 12 and 15 feet deep. Because the base of the abutment wall was not reachable by an excavator, the worker was shoveling the trench by hand when the adjacent trench wall collapsed and buried Gold in soil, the agency said.

©iStock.com / Bryngelzon

The agency cited the Williamsport, PA-based company with two willful citations and placed it into its Severe Violator Enforcement Program because of its history of safety violations.

In the citations, OSHA cited the company for not having a competent person inspect the excavation site prior to starting the work and as needed throughout the shift when a hazard is discovered. The agency also issued a citation for not providing an adequate protective system to prevent a trench from caving in.

Severe Violator Program

Susquehanna Supply Company does not appear to have a website. A review of OSHA’s inspection data revealed that the company has been inspected 11 times in the past 10 years. The data indicates that the company has received several thousands dollars worth of fines during that period. However, OSHA records dating back to 2006 indicate that Gold’s death is the company’s first fatality during that period.

Because of the alleged willful violations and its extensive history of other violations, OSHA has placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, the agency said in its statement.

As is standard procedure, Susquehanna Supply Company has 15 business days from the date it received its citations to pay the proposed fines or contest the violations.

   

Tagged categories: Accidents; Bridges; Construction; Contractors; Department of Transportation (DOT); Fatalities; Health & Safety; Health and safety; North America; OSHA; OSHA; Roads/Highways

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