Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Family Of Trench Victim Calls For Tougher Laws

Why employers who kill by willfully violating OSHA standards shouldn't receive more serious punishment should be an issue that every candidate has to address during this political season. Unfortunately, families of those killed seem to be the only ones asking the questions.

I wrote last July about how Nevada state OSHA had inexplicably failed to issue a willful citation against Western States Equipment and Bobcat Service for the deaths of two construction workers who were killed when a 12-foot deep trench collapsed on top of them. The workers had asked to have the trench shored before they began work. Without a willful citation, OSHA can't pursue a criminal prosecution.

The family of one of the workers refuses to let the issue die:
Travis Cruz was one of two men who died when the trench they were working in, collapsed on top of them. Now, Cruz's family is pushing for new laws that will better protect workers like Travis, who they say was concerned about the safety of work site, before he died there.

"He was a very hard worker. He had asked about the trench the day before to John Winfield, and told him he felt it was unsafe. He asked about what happens if the trench would collapse, and John Winfield responded with, 'use your phone, dial 911, we'll bear you out.' And this is what happened," says Terry Cruz, Travis' sister.
Nevada OSHA defended the serious citations and the $49,000 fine against the company, but federal OSHA is apparently now reviewing the case

"My brother should be out there working on the roads. It's hard every time you drive by, you think he should be there. We should be able to wave hi to him every so often when we see him on the street. So it's really hard."