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OSHA News Release - Table of Contents

DOL Logo OSHA Regional News Brief – Region 2


U.S. Department of Labor


April 1, 2015


Lack of cave-in protections led to trench collapse, Bednar Landscape workers'
deaths in Boonton
OSHA releases finding in October 2014 trench disaster

Employer name and location: Bednar Landscape Services Inc., located at 501 Division Street in Boonton, New Jersey. The company provides landscape, excavation and snow removal services throughout northern New Jersey.

Date investigation initiated: The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration initiated an inspection on Oct. 1, 2014, after a trench cave-in killed two workers, Oscar Portillo and Selvin Zelaya, who were installing a French drain system at the historic James Dixon Farm in Boonton

Investigation findings: The day of the incident, the employees were working in a trench between 9 and 13 feet deep which had no cave-in protection, OSHA determined. As a result, Bednar was found responsible for one willful and nine serious safety violations.

The willful citation was due to the trench not being adequately sloped, protected by shields or shoring. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirement, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

The serious violations included not providing a ladder in the trench every 25 feet to allow safe exit, not having a competent person inspect the trench, and failure to have utilities marked out, provide head protection, and train workers on the hazards of the chemicals with which they worked. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Bednar Landscape Services Inc. has 15 business days from receipt of their citations and proposed penalties to comply, request a conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Quotes: "One cubic yard of soil can weigh as much as a small car when a trench caves-in or collapses. Without the required protections, these men had no way to escape and their heartbroken families are left to make sense of a needless tragedy," said Kris Hoffman, director of OSHA's Parsippany Area Office. "Bednar management placed its employees in mortal danger by not using cave-in protections, and we believe these managers were plainly indifferent to the serious dangers their workers faced."

"Sadly, this is not an isolated incident. The fact that two workers are killed each month in trench collapses underscores how important cave-in protections are," said Robert Kulick, OSHA regional administrator in New York. "An unprotected trench can be a death trap and should never be entered. There are several ways to protect people who work in trenches, and trenches should be inspected at the start of each shift and as needed throughout the work day by trained professionals."

Proposed Penalties: $77,000

View the citation at: http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/Bednar-Landscape-Services-Inc_998237_0327_15.pdf

OSHA requires that all trenches and excavation sites 5 feet or deeper be protected against sidewall collapses. Protection may be provided through shoring of trench walls, sloping of the soil at a shallow angle, or by using a protective trench box. OSHA has created a National Emphasis Program on Trenching and Excavation.

Bureau of Labor Statistics data from the preliminary Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries shows fatal work injuries in New Jersey accounted for 101 of the 4,405 fatal work injuries reported nationally in 2013. Additional details are available at http://www.bls.gov.

To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's Parsippany Area Office at 973-263-1003.

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 ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.

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Media Contacts:

Joanna Hawkins,    215-861-5101,   hawkins.joanna@dol.gov
Leni Fortson,   215-861-5102,   uddyback-fortson.lenore@dol.gov

Release Number:15-558-NEW (osha 15-026)


U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at http://www.dol.gov. The department's Reasonable Accommodation Resource Center converts departmental information and documents into alternative formats, which include Braille and large print. For alternative format requests, please contact the department at (202) 693-7828 (voice) or (800) 877-8339 (federal relay).


OSHA News Release - Table of Contents

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