OSHA Cites Buffalo Company Following Fatal Cave-In at Work Site

September 29, 2005

The U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Buffalo plumbing contractor Mark Patton, doing business as Patton Plumbing, for six alleged serious safety violations following the death of an employee in a trench collapse at a Hamburg, N.Y. job site. OSHA has proposed $27,000 in fines.

Patton Plumbing had been hired to replace a sanitary sewer line running from a house on Marlowe Ave. On March 22, a Patton employee was killed when the bank of a seven-and-one-half foot deep trench in which he was working caved in on him.

OSHA’s inspection reportedly found that the trench and another on the job site lacked any form of cave-in protection. Safety standards require such protection for any excavation five feet or more in depth. Art Dube, OSHA’s area director for western New York, noted that an unguarded excavation can collapse suddenly and without warning, burying workers beneath tons of soil and debris before they have a chance to react or escape.

“This case shows in the starkest terms why cave-in protection is necessary and what can happen when it’s not provided,” said Dube. “Had proper safety procedures been followed, this fatal accident could have been prevented.”

OSHA also determined that employees had not been trained to recognize trenching hazards; ladders of inadequate length were used to enter and exit the trenches; employees did not wear hardhats while working in the trenches; no tests were conducted to classify the type of soil to determine an appropriate method of collapse protection, and no inspections were conducted by a competent person with the knowledge and authority to identify and correct such hazards.

OSHA defines a serious violation as a condition where there is a substantial possibility that death or serious physical harm can result to an employee from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Patton has 15 working days from receipt of its citations to comply with them or request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director. The company may also contest the citations before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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