Pennsylvania Firm Penalized By OSHA For Exposing Employees To Trenching Hazard

Toni Sutton-Deangelico

Warminster, PA ( last week, OSHA cited Etna Construction Inc. for unsafe conditions at one of its job sites in Philadelphia. Due to numerous alleged safety violations for excavation work, the Warminster-based construction company now faces over $208,500 in fines, according to the agency.

Citation documents obtained by display multiple violations that were discovered during an inspection on August 17, 2018, at the job site at 1609 Montrose Ave. The agency handed down one citation for six serious violations, and another for one willful violation.

According to the Citation and Notification Of Penalty, the company was fined for the following:

  • Failing to instruct the employees who were working in an approximately 9-foot-deep excavation without any shoring, a safe means of egress, and exposed re-enforced steel, a way to avoid the unsafe work conditions
  • Not ensuring that employees engaged in concrete footing installation activities were using hard hats to prevent head injuries
  • Failing to ensure that a safe means of egress was provided within 25 feet of lateral traveling in the working area
  • Not ensuring that a support system was installed under a concrete pad that was exposed and undermined in an approximately 9-foot-deep excavation with type B Soil
  • Not ensuring that deficiencies with the excavation were corrected by a competent person; thus, exposing employees to stuck-by and caught in-between hazards
  • Failing to ensure that protruding reinforced steel was guarded; thus, exposing employees to impalement, and trip and fall hazards
  • Not ensuring that a protective system was installed inside an excavation that was approximately 9 feet deep to protect the employees from caught in-between hazards.

“Employees can be seriously or fatally injured in a matter of seconds when a trench collapses,” stated OSHA Philadelphia Area Office Director Theresa Down in a press release. “Trench-related injuries are preventable when employees are trained properly, and the required protections are in place.”

In a statement to a spokesperson for OSHA said “according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, excavation and trench-related fatalities in 2016 were nearly double the average of the previous five years. OSHA has made reducing trenching and excavation hazards the Agency’s Priority Goal. The goal is to increase the number of trenching and excavation hazards abated by 10 percent by 9/30/2019 (compared to the 2017 baseline); this increase is to be achieved via both enforcement and compliance assistance.”

Etna Construction Inc. has 15 business days from receipt of penalties and citation to either comply, request an informal conference with the area director of OSHA or challenge the funds before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing their workers with healthful and safe workplaces. It is OSHA’s responsibility to make sure that these conditions for all employers are met by implementing standards, as well as providing assistance, education, and training.

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