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OSHA Cites Company $168,000 for Worker Death in Tragic Pennsylvania Construction Trench Collapse

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June 18, 2011

Government regulators have fined a company for safety violations after investigating the collapse of a trench at a Newberry Township construction site that killed one worker and injured another.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited Eclipse Builders Inc. of Etters, PA with three willful violations and issued $168,000 in penalties for exposing employees to trenching hazards after investigating the collapse of a trench on December 14, 2010.

According to York Dispatch, Eclipse Builders hired Jory Raber III and Joshua Gimmel to install a water drainage pipe on the construction site of a Walmart store. The wall of a trench 60 feet long and 18-20 feet deep collapsed as the men worked, burying Raber completely and Gimmel up to his waist.

More than one hundred emergency personnel responded to aid the men, transporting Gimmel to the hospital and finally uncovering Raber’s body after fourteen hours of rescue efforts.

Violations included:

  • Failure to provide a safe means of egress in trench excavations that were greater than 4 feet in depth and would require employees to travel no more than 25 feet laterally.
  • Failure to provide protection by placing and keeping excavated or other materials or equipment at least 2 feet away from the edge of excavations.
  • Failure to protect employees entering excavations from cave-ins with an adequate protective system.
  • Failure to have a competent person conduct daily inspections of excavations, adjacent areas and protective systems to prevent the possibility of cave-ins, failure of protective systems, hazardous atmospheres or other hazardous conditions.
  • Failure to provide training to employees in the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions applicable to the work environment.

“This tragic incident did not have to happen,” said Kevin Kilp, director of OSHA’s Harrisburg Area Office. “Excavating is recognized as one of the most hazardous construction operations, so it is vital that the company immediately comply with the OSHA standards designed to protect workers from these kinds of hazards.’

OSHA deems a willful violation as one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

Eclipse Builders has fifteen business days to comply or contest OSHA’s findings.

“I don’t know what grounds they have to make us responsible over it,” Edward Shami, owner of Eclipse Builders told York Dispatch. “We’re not responsible for this accident.”

Shami says the workers were independent contractors and not employees.