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Region 3 News Release: III-98-12-15-214-PGH
Tuesday, December 15, 1998
Contact: Kate Dugan, (215) 596-1147


OSHA Official Urges Employers and Employees to "Dig Trenches, Not Graves"

The U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) today issued citations with proposed penalties of $237,750 against DT Construction, Inc., Dunbar, Pa. The citations allege that the company committed willful violations by exposing employees working in three separate trenches to life-threatening trench collapses.

Two employees were trapped and injured in two separate trench cave-ins on June 22 and Sept. 9, 1998. Despite these cave-ins the employer continued to direct workers to enter unprotected trenches. "Fortunately no workers were killed despite the deplorable conditions in the trenches," said Charles Jeffress, assistant secretary for OSHA. "This case is an example of the kind of blatant disregard that harms or ends the lives of scores of workers every year. Employers and employees across the country need to dig trenches and not graves."

OSHA cited the company for three willful violations and a proposed penalty of $210,000, for failure to place protective systems in trenches deeper than five feet (one for each day workers were exposed to the danger).

The company was also cited for 10 serious violations and a penalty of $20,750, for the use of unsafe rigging equipment, improper use of a trench box and water running in the trench creating a danger. One other-than-serious citation with four items and a penalty of $7,000, was issued because the company did not maintain records required by OSHA and lack of a hazard communications program.

OSHA began its inspection in September following a report of a trench collapse in Central City, Penna. One employee was trapped up to his shoulders by the sidewall that collapsed while water was running into the excavation from a broken line. OSHA's inspection uncovered that another cave-in had occurred in Cottagetown, Pa. on June 22. An employee at this worksite was trapped up to his waist in a trench approximately nine feet deep that had no protective systems in place.

"Trench cave-ins continue to be a prominent cause of death or injury in construction," said Linda R. Anku, regional administrator of OSHA in Philadelphia. "Stiff penalties are warranted to deter companies from continuing to expose workers to such dangerous conditions."

Willful violations are those committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the OSH act and regulations.

A serious violation involves a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and that the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.

The company has 15 working days from receipt of the citations to either decide to comply, to request an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

The investigation was conducted by the Pittsburgh OSHA office, 1000 Liberty Ave., Room 1428, Pittsburgh, Pa. 15222, telephone (412) 395-4903.

This information will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request. Telecommunications Device for the Deaf (TDD). Telephone: 1-800-927-9273.

Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents

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