$400K in Penalties Issued for Trench Violations in Pa., Ohio

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OSHA issues $404,618 in penalties among three contractors on projects in Ohio and Pennsylvania for trench violations.
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Contractors on jobs in Ohio and Philadelphia are facing six-figure penalties in 2022 for trench violations, including one at an Amazon construction site where a worker died.

Worker dies

On July 27, workers were building a retaining wall near a vertical shear-cut excavation at an under-construction Amazon distribution warehouse in Philadelphia, according to the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration.

While leveling stone behind and on top of blocks for a retaining wall, the 20-foot-tall shear excavation wall collapsed on a worker who died of crushing injuries, OSHA says. The excavation wall was protected by an 8- by 14-foot steel plate, which OSHA said was inadequate.

OSHA cited subcontractor Mayfield Site Contractors Inc. of King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, with one willful and three serious violations. Gilbane Building Company of Philadelphia, which hired Mayfield to excavate and to build the wall, was cited with one serious violation.

“Mayfield Site Contractors and Gilbane Building Co. did not provide the proper protection for the workers, resulting in a senseless loss of life,” said Theresa Downs, OSHA area director in Philadelphia.

Mayfield and Gilbane are contesting the violations, according to OSHA records.

Willful violations are those in which the employer knowingly failed to comply with or was indifferent to employee safety rules. Serious violations are for hazards that could cause injury or death, unless the employer did not know or could not know of the violation.

Mayfield faces proposed penalties of $175,480 for the following violations issued January 31:

  • Worker in excavation was not adequately protected from cave-in. (willful)
  • The protective system “was not drawn or selected from the manufacturer's or other tabulated data, or approved by a registered professional engineer to determine if the selection and design of the protective system was appropriate to the excavation work.” (serious)
  • The competent person did not take proper safety precautions or remove workers from the hazardous area. (serious)
  • Employees were not instructed on how to recognize and avoid unsafe conditions. (serious)

Gilbane faces proposed penalties of $14,502 for a serious violation of not ensuring that workers in front of the excavation wall were protected from collapse. 

15-foot-deep trench

On November 19, workers were installing sewer lines in a 15-foot-deep trench in Batavia, Ohio, without any cave-in protection, according to OSHA.

The 75-foot-long trench also did not have a safe way for workers to enter or exit. They had to walk the length of the trench to get out, OSHA reports.

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Lanigan Construction LLC of Burlington, Kentucky, faces proposed penalties of $214,636 issued February 24 for two willful and four serious violations.

“The company owner and foreman were onsite and allowed the pipelayer to work in hazardous conditions knowingly,” says OSHA Area Director Ken Montgomery in Cincinnati. “We cannot stress enough how important it is for employers to review and then implement required safety measures.”

Lanigan is contesting the violations, according to OSHA records.

The OSHA citations are as follows:

  • Workers were in an unprotected trench. (willful)
  • There was no safe way to exit or enter the 75-foot-long trench. (willful)
  • A spoil pile was closer than 2 feet to the edge of the trench. (serious)
  • Employees in the trench were not wearing hard hats. (serious)
  • Employees were not adequately trained to recognize and avoid hazards. (serious)
  • The employer “did not have the tabulated data information on site or readily available for review for four GME brand trench shields that were on site.” (serious)