A Stark County excavating company has been cited by OSHA for violations tied to trench safety. Bontrager Excavating plans to contest the penalties.
A local excavating company faces a $157,710 fine and increased scrutiny from federal workplace safety investigators.
The U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced on Monday that it cited Bontrager Excavating for five violations in failing to protect workers from cave-ins during trenching operations.
The company plans to contest those findings.
OSHA initiated an inspection after one Bontrager worker died and another was injured in a trench collapse on Dec. 28 in Jackson Township. Bontrager was notified of the penalties in a hand-delivered letter Friday afternoon.
“Cave-ins are a leading cause of worker fatalities during excavations,” said Howard Eberts, OSHA’s area director in Cleveland in a news release. “OSHA implemented a trenching and excavation special emphasis program in the 1980s, so the industry is well aware of the safety regulations for trenching operations.”
OSHA broke the Bontrager violations into three categories:
• Two were deemed willful, meaning the company knew the rules, but disregarded them.
• Two were serious, because the company should have known its violations could cause death to an employee.
• A single repeat citation was issued for failing to provide a ladder or other safe way out for workers in the trench. Bontrager was cited for the same violation in 2007.
Bontrager was installing sewer lines in a Jackson Township neighborhood in December. A trench, dug for the lines, along Cheryl Lane Street NW, collapsed and killed Scott K. Beatty Sr., 50, of Canton, and injured his 24-year-old son.
According to OSHA, Bontrager used a required trench box (to reinforce dirt walls), but it was eight feet below grade. The wall collapsed above the box. Additionally, a trench box was not consistently used inside another trench during part of the installation project. It also was placed below grade.
The agency also found the company failed to safely determine the location of underground utilities and to ensure a protective shield system was no more than 2 feet off the bottom of a trench floor.
Joseph Ventura, general manager of Safety Controls Technology Inc., of Bedford, said the findings are merely allegations at this point. Bontrager had hired Safety Controls as a consultant, following Beatty’s death.
“We’ve helped them do a root cause analysis so that a tragedy like this never happens again,” Ventura explained.
He said Bontrager officials have always been committed to eliminating workplace hazards and supports its family of employees. Ventura said they look forward to discussing the validity of the citations with OSHA.
Besides the fine, OSHA placed Bontrager in its severe violator enforcement program, which mandates follow-up inspections to ensure compliance.
The company has 15 business days to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the citations and penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Page 2 of 2 - Prior to OSHA’s inspection in December, Bontrager had been inspected six times since 1992, resulting in 12 citations for various trenching hazards