Confined Space
News and Commentary on Workplace Health & Safety, Labor and Politics

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Won't Get Fooled Again -- and Again and Again? OSHA Cites Serial Violator Who Had Killed Twice Before

OSHA has fined Moeves Plumbing $150,000 for trench safety violations.

So what's so special about that?

Moeves, you may recall, was the company highlighted in David Barstow's December 2003 New York Times series on OSHA's failure to file criminal charges against companies who willfully kill workers -- sometimes repeatedly.

Barstow tells the story of story of a young man, Patrick Walters, who was killed in an uprotected 10-foot deep trench in 2002, only a couple of weeks after OSHA had cited the same company -- Moeves Plumbing -- for sending workers into unprotected 15-foot deep trench. Barstow wrote of how OSHA refused to issue a willful citation despite proof that the hazards were well known to the company, and how the agency refused to refer this case to the Justice Department for possible criminal investigation.

Montgomery County Coroner's Office
The body of Patrick Walters as it was removed from the trench that collapsed and killed him in 2002. His family's lawyers provided the photograph.

Moeves had already killed a worker, Clint Daley, in a trench in 1989 after three warnings (and small citations) from OSHA prior to that. Following Daley's death, company owner, Linda Moeves, had impressed OSHA with her promise to change, take safety courses and purchase proper equipment.

Now, despite nation-wide attention to the company's fatal negligence, Moeves still has not learned its lesson.
OSHA issued citations for three alleged willful violations and one serious violation of workplace health and safety standards involving trenching and excavation operations. During the inspection, OSHA found that employees working in a trench approximately nine feet deep, were exposed to cave-in hazards due to inadequate or missing safety equipment, the improper piling of excavated material which was too close to the open trench where it could have rolled or fallen back into the excavation, and inadequate safe means of entering or exiting the trench. A serious citation was issued alleging that trench shields available for use were damaged.

Moeves Plumbing has been the subject of 13 previous inspections, including five that resulted in citations for violations of OSHA's trenching standards. Two of the 13 inspections came as a result of employee fatalities due to trench cave-ins.
Happily, this inspection and citation came before Moeves killed yet another worker. But how long before another worker -- who really needs the work and hopes his luck will hold out -- dies due to the criminal negligence of this company? Why should they be allowed to continue in business? What shouldn't their business license be revoked? Why aren't the good citizens of Cincinnati descending upon Moeves with burning torches and pitchforks? Why aren't Ohio's Senators -- Mike DeWine (R) and George Voinovich (R) introducing legislation to raise penalties for companies that repeatedly violate OSHA standards?

Finally, what's the difference between Moeves Plumbing and a serial killer?

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