Pennsylvania contractor pleads guilty, pays $250K in fines for deadly trench safety violation
- A Pennsylvania bridge contractor has pleaded guilty to willfully violating the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) trench safety rule — an action that led to an employee death in 2015 — and has paid a $250,000 fine for that criminal misdemeanor, according to PennLive.
- On July 7, 2015, 37-year-old Susquehanna Supply Co. employee Richard Gold III was removing loose dirt from a 12-foot-deep trench near a bridge rehabilitation project when a trench wall collapsed and crushed him against an abutment, killing him instantly. The company admitted that it did not slope the trench wall according to the requirements set out by OSHA standards.
- The authorities said Susquehanna's site-specific safety plan included excavation and trenching hazards but did not use a sufficient protection system. The company has sold off most of its equipment and will soon cease doing business.
Companies that repeatedly or willfully violate OSHA standards are more likely than ever to end up in a courtroom defending themselves against criminal charges, particularly if their actions result in serious injury or death. OSHA has been critical in changing job site safety behavior through a system of inspections and fines, but prosecutors around the country have added new consequences to the mix.
In Seattle, the owner of a construction company was charged with second-degree manslaughter in January for the death of a worker killed in a trench collapse. As in the Susquehanna case, prosecutors allege that Alki Construction and its owner Phillip Numrich knew what measures to take in order to make the trench safe but still failed to do so. This is the first time an employer in Washington State has been charged with a felony in relation to a worker death.
New York City authorities have also been aggressive in pursuing criminal charges against construction companies, their owners and direct supervisors after fatal job site incidents. Brooklyn prosecutors charged Michael Weiss, the owner of a construction company, with manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide after he reportedly denied workers the necessary materials to shore up a wall next to where they were working. The wall collapsed killing one of his employees and injuring two others.
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