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OSHA fines plumbing firm after worker dies in trench collapse


An Ohio plumbing company is facing $274,359 in proposed penalties from federal workplace safety regulators after a 33-year-old employee was crushed to death as he was digging soil out of a 12-foot trench.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Jamestown, Ohio-based KRW Plumbing L.L.C. for two willful and two serious violations following the June incident in which the employee died when the trench walls around him collapsed and buried him in thousands of pounds of dirt, according to an agency press release issued on Thursday. An OSHA investigation determined that KRW did not provide trench cave-in protection for its employees. 

The employee was part of a crew installing a sewer line at a residential home under construction and had escaped a partial trench collapse earlier that day, according to OSHA. The same worker was involved in a trench collapse at another construction site about a month prior because trench cave-in protection was not provided at that site, according to the agency. 

"This man's life could have been saved by following OSHA's safety standards that require cave-in protection in a trench more than 5 feet deep," Ken Montgomery, OSHA's area director in Cincinnati, said in a statement. "Excavating companies need to re-examine their safety procedures to ensure they are taking all available precautions — including installing trench boxes, shoring and other means to prevent unexpected shifts in the soil that can cause walls to collapse.” 

A company spokesperson could not be immediately reached for comment. 

To date, 23 workers have been killed in trench collapses in 2016, according to OSHA. 

"Trench deaths have more than doubled nationwide since last year — an alarming and unacceptable trend that must be halted," David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, said in the statement. "There is no excuse. These fatalities are completely preventable by complying with OSHA standards that every construction contractor should know."



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