Wed., Oct. 17, 2007
Contact: Ted Fitzgerald
NEW YORK -- The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Star Pak Contracting Inc. for alleged willful and serious violations of safety standards following the death of an employee in a May 4 trench collapse in Brooklyn's Dyker Heights neighborhood. The Brooklyn-based contractor faces a total of $25,500 in proposed fines.
The employee died when the walls of an unprotected 10-foot deep trench located at 1037 72nd St. collapsed on him while he was working in the trench. OSHA's inspection found that the fatal trench, as well an adjacent seven-foot deep trench, lacked any protection against possible cave-ins.
Both trenches also lacked ladders or other safe means of exiting. Employees did not wear head protection, and piles of excavated materials were placed at the edge of both trenches, potentially weakening their sidewalls.
'This accident is exactly the type trenching safety requirements are designed to prevent,' said Richard Mendelson, OSHA's area director in Manhattan. 'This employer knew these safeguards were required but did not use them. Had they been in place and in use, this needless loss of life would not have occurred.'
As a result, Star Pak was issued one willful citation, with a $21,000 fine for the lack of cave-in protection, and three serious citations, carrying $4,500 in fines, for the other conditions. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health. A serious citation is issued when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
OSHA standards require that all excavations five feet or deeper must be protected against collapse. Mendelson noted that detailed information on excavation safety, including a trenching 'Quick Card' and an interactive eTool, is available on OSHA's Web site at www.osha.gov/SLTC/constructiontrenching/index.html.
OSHA operates a vigorous enforcement program, conducting more than 38,000 inspections in fiscal year 2006 and exceeding its inspection goals in each of the last seven years. In fiscal year 2006, OSHA found nearly 84,000 violations of its standards and regulations. When an injury or fatality occurs, OSHA works to identify hazardous conditions as soon as possible. Mandated penalties under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 are primarily designed to deter future violations. Of course, OSHA penalties neither reflect nor correspond to the value of an employee's life or cost of an injury or illness.
Star Pak Contracting has until October 26 to request and participate in an informal conference with OSHA or to contest the citations before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. This inspection was conducted by OSHA's Manhattan Area Office, telephone (212) 620-3200.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to assure the safety and health of America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual process improvement in workplace safety and health. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.
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