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OSHA News Release
Region 2

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Region 2 News Release: 06-35-NEW/BOS 2006-007
Thursday, January 12, 2006
Contact: Ted Fitzgerald
Phone: (617) 565-2074

OSHA Assesses Maximum Fine Following Fatal Cave-In at University of Rochester

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is seeking the maximum fine the law allows following a fatal cave-in at the University of Rochester.

Ferguson-Hall Co. Inc., a Rochester excavation contactor, faces a $70,000 fine as a result of a July 20 accident in which one of its employees died after the bank of an unprotected 8 1/2-foot deep water line excavation collapsed on him. OSHA's inspection found that the excavation had no cave-in protection.

"This accident should never have happened," said Art Dube, OSHA's area director for western New York. "The employer knew that this excavation should have been protected against collapse and that employees should not have been working in it until such protection was in place and in use."

As a result, OSHA cited Ferguson-Hall for an alleged willful violation of safety standards that require collapse protection. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations.

Dube explained that OSHA standards require that all excavations five feet or deeper be protected since their walls can collapse without warning, burying workers beneath tons of soil before they have a chance to react or escape. He noted that while employers have several options for cave-in protection, including sloping the soil at a shallow angle, shoring the sides of the excavation or using a protective trench box, none were in use in this excavation.

Detailed information on excavation safety is available for employers and workers on OSHA's Web site at: A "Quick Card" about trenching safety is available in English and Spanish at:

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The investigation was conducted by OSHA's Buffalo area office, telephone (716) 551-3053.

Employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace for their employees. OSHA's role is to assure the safety and health of America's workers by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach, and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual improvement in workplace safety and health. For more information, visit

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