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U.S. workplace safety regulators have cited and proposed penalties of $202,201 against an Ohio excavation contractor after an employee suffered fatal injuries in a trench collapse and placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Mason, Ohio-based JK Excavating & Utilities Inc. after agency investigators determined that employees at a residential construction site in Morrow, Ohio, were working in trenches up to 16 feet deep without adequate cave-in protection, according to a statement on Friday.
OSHA cited the company for failing to use protective systems to prevent a cave-in, implement methods to remove accumulating water, properly use ladders to enter and exit the trench, prevent employees from working beneath a suspended trench box, ensure employees wore hard hats and make provisions for prompt medical attention in the event of injury, according to the statement.
OSHA also placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which focuses on inspecting employers that the agency says have demonstrated indifference to their Occupational Safety and Health Act obligations through willful, repeated or failure-to-abate violations.
“A trench can collapse in seconds, burying workers under the weight of thousands of pounds of soil,” Ken Montgomery, OSHA Cincinnati area office director, said in the statement. “This tragedy was preventable and could have been avoided if the employer had installed required protective systems to prevent a trench cave-in.”
A company spokesperson could not be immediately reached for comment.
An industrial firm must pay additional death benefits to the family of a worker killed in an incident involving trench safety violations in an excavation project, according to a Supreme Court of Ohio ruling issued Tuesday, affirming a Tenth District Court of Appeals ruling from 2015.