Safety and OSHA News

Company faces criminal penalties for trench death

A construction company faces criminal charges in connection with an employee’s death due to a trench collapse. 

Susquehanna Supply Co. Inc. of Williamsport, PA, has been charged with willfully committing an OSHA violation that resulted in an employee’s death.

Susquehanna Supply’s primary business is bridge rehabilitation. The company contracted with the PA Department of Transportation to rehabilitate a bridge near Eyers Grove, PA.

The rehab involved digging large trenches at each end of the bridge. On July 7, 2015, company employee Richard Gold entered a trench at one end of the bridge to remove additional soil. The trench was about 12 feet deep – a depth that requires protection from cave-ins under OSHA rules.

Susquehanna Supply hadn’t implemented a protective system for the trench. While Gold was working, a vertical trench dirt wall collapsed, burying him up to his chest and crushing him against the bridge’s concrete abutment.

The collapse caused massive trauma to Gold’s upper body and killed him almost instantly.

The company faces a maximum penalty of $500,000 and a term of probation.

OSHA issued $140,000 in fines to Susquehanna Supply and placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program. The company is contesting the fines.

Trenches five feet (1.5 meters) deep or more require a protective system unless the excavation is made entirely in stable rock, according to OSHA’s regulations. If a trench is less than five feet deep, a competent person may determine that a protective system isn’t required.

OSHA says some of the protective systems for trenches are:

  • sloped for stability
  • cut to create stepped benched grades
  • supported by a system made with materials such as posts, beams, shores or planking and hydraulic jacks, or
  • shielded by a trench box.

Protect workers from excavated material or other equipment that could pose a hazard by falling or rolling inside the excavation by placing and keeping the materials at least two feet from the edge or by using a retaining device to keep the materials from falling or rolling into the excavation.

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Comments

  1. I use articles like this for Safety Moments in meetings and training classes. I emphasize to employees that when fines like this are issued the only persons getting rich are the lawyers.
    I don’t know anything about this individual who lost his life, but my company has crews that do civil work like this. We train on excavation hazards, hazard assessments, Job Safety Analysis and provide all the equipment and PPE to protect them from these hazards but it never fails that at least once a year I’ll get a call about someone being somewhere they are not supposed to be. I remove these people from our site for their own good, and hopefully they will remember the consequences at their next job. These guys make a decision to take a short cut and take a chance, but it only takes once to get them hurt or killed.

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