Today's News

Penalty for tragic trench cave-in: $27,000

September 30, 2005
/ Print / Reprints /
/ Text Size+
Patton Plumbing of Buffalo, N.Y., was fined $27,000 this week following the death of a worker in Hamburg, N.Y., when an unbraced trench caved in March 22, according to the Buffalo News.

The fine represents the amount that OSHA can levy against the company for lapses in workplace safety, Buffalo-area director Arthur J. Dube said. The company was also required to fix the hazardous conditions that inspectors found.

The employer may appeal the fines and dispute the agency's finding of fault.

The incident stemmed from a cave-in that killed Charles M. Lee, Jr., who was replacing a sewer line at a home in Hamburg. The employee was working in a trench 7-1/2 feet deep when the bank collapsed on him, OSHA's inspection records state.

The agency found that the trench lacked cave-in protections, which are required in trenches deeper than five feet, and other workplace safety violations.

According to OSHA, the agency actually cited Mark Patton, a Buffalo plumbing contractor doing business as Patton Plumbing. The citations were for six alleged serious safety violations.

Inspectors found no willful violations of safety rules at Patton Plumbing's work site, Dube said. One $7,000 penalty for lacking cave-in protections would have carried $70,000 in fines if the violation was considered deliberate, he said.

Penalties aren't linked to the severity of injuries in an accident, or whether a safety lapse results in a fatality, Dube said.

“There's no price for a human life — it (penalties) are on a case-by-case basis,” he said.

“Had proper safety procedures been followed, this fatal accident could have been prevented,” Dube added.

In addition to citing a lack of trench cave-in protections, 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.

Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to ISHN.

You must login or register in order to post a comment.


Facebook logo Twitter YouTubeLinkedIn



Image Galleries

ASSE's Safety 2013 Review

A photo gallery from the Las Vegas Convention Center, where ASSE’s annual professional development conference was held June 24 to 27. All photos courtesy of the American Society of Safety Engineers.


ISHN Magazine

ishn april 2014 issue cover

2014 April

In this month's issue of ISHN, check out features about safety in the oil and gas industry.

Table Of Contents Subscribe


M:\General Shared\__AEC Store Katie Z\AEC Store\Images\ISHN\safetyfourth.jpg
Safety Engineering, 4th Edition

A practical, solutions-driven reference, Safety Engineering, 4th edition, has been completely revised and updated to reflect many of today’s issues in safety.

More Products

For Distributors Only - January 2014

ISHN0114_FDO_cov.jpgFor Distributors Only is ISHN's niche brand standard-sized magazine supplement aimed at an audience of 2,000 U.S. distributors that sell safety products. Circulation only goes to distributors. CHECK OUT THEJANUAYR 2014 ISSUE OF FDO HERE

ishn infographics

2012 US workplace deathsCheck out ISHN's new Infographic page! Learn more about worker safety through these interactive images. CLICK HERE to view the page.