OSHA Cites Pennsylvania Company Following Trench Fatality, Proposes $382,875 Penalty

December 13, 2004

OSHA has cited Wagner Development Company, Inc., and Wagner Excavation Services, Inc., and proposed $382,875 in penalties for failure to protect workers from trenching hazards. Those oversights led to the death of one employee and the injury of anther worker at a storm sewer project in western Pennsylvania.

The agency cited the companies for a total of seven alleged willful violations. These included failure to provide cave-in protection to employees working at the Trinity Park Storm Water Project in North Franklin Township, PA, on seven separate days last June. Additionally, OSHA identified five alleged serious violations involving trench safety, personal protective equipment, and overhead power lines.

OSHA began an investigation of a trench wall collapse at the Trinity Park Project site in late June. The agency determined that on at least seven dates that month, the Wagner Companies had allowed unprotected employees to work in unshored, unsloped trenches in unstable soil, facing the risk of collapse. During an earlier inspection in February 2004, OSHA staff had specifically discussed trenching safety requirements with company owners and the foreman. Further, the company had rented a trench box after an earlier trench collapse at the site that could have protected the workers, but it was lying unused nearby.

Proposed penalties for the seven alleged willful citations total $367,500 while proposed penalties for the five alleged serious violations total $15,375. The Wagner Companies have 15 working days from receipt of the citations to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Federal Agencies Launch Safety, Health Effort for Teen Workers this Winter

As millions of teenage Americans prepare to enter the workforce this winter, performing a variety of jobs to earn extra money and gain valuable work experience, many also risk being seriously or even fatally injured while on the job. Eighty percent of U.S. teenagers work during their high school years. In 2002, a total of 38,600 teens were injured at work and 133 died as a result of an on-the-job injury.

To address this challenge, numerous federal agencies, collectively known as the Federal Network for Young Worker Safety and Health (FedNet), have joined together to educate teens, their parents, counselors, and employers on how young people can stay safe on the job.

FedNet's latest Web-based product, Winter Worker Land, provides teen worker safety and health materials in both English and Spanish. Topics covered include safe winter driving, snow removal, dressing for the cold weather and other winter safety tips, as well as tips on workplace violence prevention and safety topics related to working in restaurants.

There are five basic things teens can do to help reduce the risk of injuries and illnesses:

  • Talk to their employers
  • Stay alert, work safe and follow proper work practices
  • Know their workplace rights
  • Get safety and health training
  • Find and follow practical safety tips like those found on FedNet's website 

The 11 FedNet agencies committed to coordinating their efforts to help reduce work-related injuries and illnesses among teen-age workers include the U.S. Departments of Commerce, Education, Health & Human Services, Agriculture, Defense, Labor, Transportation, U.S. Postal Service, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

OSHA signs Alliance with Building Service Contractors Association

The Building Service Contractors Association International (BSCAI) recently formalized an alliance with OSHA to advance worker safety and health issues, with an added focus on workers with limited English proficiency.

Key to the alliance is the agreement to ensure that BSCAI members and others are armed with information related to reducing injuries and illnesses associated with musculoskeletal disorders, as well as exposure to hazardous materials.

OSHA and BSCAI agreed to work together to identify available resources and stimulate the development of new training programs and materials related to ergonomics and workplace exposure to hazardous materials. The development of case studies illustrating the business value of safety and health, such as the use of ergonomic tools in the building services industry, is also on tap, as is participation in forums and roundtable discussions on hazardous materials and ergonomic issues.

Both organizations will develop and disseminate information through various media, including OSHA and BSCAI websites and will also look for opportunities to speak, exhibit or appear at educational conferences and trade shows. The alliance encourages BSCAI members to participate in the OSHA's cooperative programs such as compliance assistance, Voluntary Protection Programs, Consultation, and the Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program.

BSCAI is a trade association representing the building service contracting industry and consists of members from more than 2,000 companies. BSCAI's member companies provide cleaning, building maintenance, and other related services to building owners and managers.

OSHA Indicates Oregon Plant Not Responsible for Worker Fatality

OSHA has determined that Hallmark Fisheries of Charleston, OR, was not at fault in a fatal accident at the seafood processing plant in September.

During the incident, a seafood packer fell through a storage room access hole in an upstairs floor onto a concrete floor about 12 feet below. Employees with first aid skills attended to her until emergency crews arrived. The employee was pronounced dead upon arrival at an area hospital.

According to the OSHA report, Hallmark employees were returning packing boxes to the second floor storage area by when the injured employee leaned through the removable guard rails of an access hole between the floors to yell at the employees below. One of the rails became dislodged, causing the employee to fall.

OSHA noted that Hallmark Fisheries either did not hold or did not record monthly safety meetings with its employees. The agency cited Hallmark, but did not penalize the company for the violation. Investigators also said in the report that Hallmark needs to re-evaluate the workplace hazards for items such as removable guardrails and make them less accessible or removable.

OSHA Forms Alliance with the National Utility Contractors Association

The National Utility Contractors Association (NUCA) recently joined with OSHA in a formal alliance to reduce and prevent exposure to underground utility construction hazards associated with trenching and excavation, tunneling, and confined space entry.

Furthering the safety and health of construction workers is the main goal of the alliance, with training and education as its key components. The alliance calls for the delivery of NUCA training programs such as Excavation Safety, Competent Person, and Confined Space to OSHA staff, including those offered in Spanish.

NUCA will also work with OSHA to help develop training and education programs on utility construction such as a 10-hour outreach program emphasizing trench and excavation safety. In addition, NUCA association will help OSHA create fact sheets and compliance assistance information cards (in English and Spanish) on trenching and excavations, and confined spaces.

The alliance encourages NUCA's members to act as mentors to utility contractors who need guidance and assistance with safety and health issues to improve safety performance within the underground utility industry. OSHA and NUCA will share information with industry safety and health professionals regarding NUCA's best practices or effective approaches on trenching and confined space safety. Finally, both organizations will take the opportunity to speak, exhibit and appear at conferences and events such as NUCA's EXPO, Safety Directors Forum, and Institute for Leadership Development training sessions.

With a membership of 2,000 in 43 chapters, NUCA represents contractors, suppliers, and manufacturers in the utility construction industry. The Association provides continuing education to members through the NUCA Foundation for Education and Research.

OSHA Fines New Jersey Company $229K for Lockout/Tagout Violations

OSHA has proposed $229,050 in fines against a New Jersey company for lockout/tagout violations. The Agency cited Star Manufacturing Inc., of Little Ferry, NJ, for safety and health violations what investigators says they found during while looking into an incident involving a press machine.

The agency initiated an investigation on May 25, 2004 in response to a referral made by the Little Ferry police department alleging that an employee suffered amputated fingers after an accident the previous day.

The investigation resulted in citations for six alleged willful violations, with a penalty of $200,000. Star Manufacturing Inc. also received citations for 15 alleged serious violations, with a penalty of $29,050, and two alleged other-than-serious violations, which carry no penalty.

A willful violation is defined as an intentional disregard of or plain indifference to the OSHA law and regulations. A serious violation is issued when death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

OSHA says it issued willful citations because the company failed to establish a lockout/tagout program to prevent an inadvertent machine start-up, as well as failing to develop and maintain a hazard communication program for employees who work with hazardous chemicals. The company also failed to guard machinery or to cover unused openings containing live electrical parts.

Star Manufacturing Inc. has 15 working days from the receipt of the citations to decide to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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