Thursday, October 06, 2005

OSHA Files Criiminal Charges In Trench Death: Now That's More Like It

Like the victim of a split personality disorder, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration transitions from yesterday's (well coiffed) industry lapdog, into today's tough enforcer:
An excavating company and one of its officers were charged with a federal crime for allegedly violating safety rules that resulted in a fatal trench cave-in.

The U.S. Attorney in Pittsburgh charged Glen Wagner and Wagner Excavation Services, of North Fayette Township, with willful violation of Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations.

William Partin, 39, of North Fayette, was killed and another man was injured in June 2004 while they were working in a 10-foot-deep trench on a stormwater drainage project in North Franklin, about 25 miles southwest of Pittsburgh.

A message left for Wagner and company officials was not immediately returned Thursday. The charges were filed Tuesday and made public Wednesday.

OSHA fined Wagner Excavation and Wagner Development Co. $382,875 — the largest trench-related workplace fine ever in Pennsylvania — for "egregiously willful" safety violations at the work site.

OSHA found the companies weren't using a trench box, which reinforces trench walls, at the time of Partin's death. The companies had even rented a trench box, but it was lying unused nearby when Partin was killed.
I wrote about this fatality after it happened in June 2004. The article reported that a trench box was sitting, unused, at the sight and that the township's quality-control inspector had made repeated suggestions to workers and company officials to use the trench box