20-Year-Old Worker Dies: Company Charged
January 19, 2019
After the recent death of a 20-year-old trench worker, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is fining the employer $275,000 for an array of willful and “serious” safety violations. According to the administration’s investigative findings, the company failed to conduct daily site safety inspections – and as a result, the young worker died in what would have otherwise been a preventable incident.
Throughout its investigation, OSHA found even more problems that contributed to the man’s death. The White-Marsh, Maryland based company was also cited for:
- Failing to implement employee-training programs (e.g. hazard recognition, reporting protocols, etc.);
- Non-compliance with digging (e.g. sloping and shoring) guidelines;
- Not providing workers with necessary protective equipment (like helmets, ramps, and/or ladders), and:
- Overall unsafe working conditions (e.g. water buildup, etc.)
According to the agency’s official statement, the trenching company’s failure to “comply with state and federal safety regulations […] contributed to the unsafe working conditions” that led to the young man’s death.
A spokesperson from the trenching company said the job being carried out was “urgent”, which is why the 20-year-old was hard at work when he was fatally trapped in an avoidable cave-in. No matter how urgent the job, it is no excuse for an employer to cut corners and put the lives of employees at risk. Sadly, in this case the consequences proved deadly.
OSHA’s Trench Safety Guidelines
There are numerous guidelines and standards in place when it comes to trenching and excavation work – and for good reason: these types of jobs can be extremely dangerous for workers. Trenching and excavation workers face several job-specific risks, but one of the most common is a cave-in.
Cave-ins typically result from specific unsafe work conditions, like:
- Heavy equipment placed too closely to the edge of a trench;
- Loose soil (e.g. soil that breaks apart from equipment-related vibrations);
- Sandy soil, and:
- Water build-up, which weakens the trench’s structural integrity
Despite how dangerous trenching and excavation work can be, when employers abide by health and safety guidelines fewer workers get injured and killed. If you want to read more from OSHA on trenching and excavation safety, please visit: https://www.osha.gov/sites/default/files/publications/trench_excavation_fs.pdf
Before workers begin trenching or excavation work, OSHA requires that they:
- Have a competent individual evaluate any and all possible dangers;
- Monitor the operation at all times, and:
- Provide certain protective measures (these vary based on the depth of a trench, as well as other factors)
Workplace Safety Failures
It is frightening to know that your workplace is unsafe – and it can be equally scary to file a formal complaint against an employer. That said, there is good news: workers are entitled to filing completely anonymous complaints – and it is illegal for an employer to take retaliatory action because of it. If you want to file a complaint, click here: https://www.osha.gov/pls/osha7/eComplaintForm.html.
If You Were Injured
If you were injured because your employer failed to implement state and federally required safety systems, you may be eligible to file a workers’ compensation claim. Filing a claim sometimes provides injured individuals with peace of mind while they receive medical treatment or miss time from work because of their illness or injury. To learn more about how to file a claim or to speak with someone about a work-related injury, please contact a representative at our firm.
Allentown Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP Represent Individuals Injured at Work
If you were injured at work, please contact our Allentown workers’ compensation lawyers. With offices located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading Galfand Berger serves clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.