A Middletown, Pennsylvania contractor has been cited for multiple violations and fined $41,000 after a trench cave-in sent one of its workers to the hospital.

On Sept. 30, 2015, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency notified OSHA of a trench collapse. When OSHA inspectors arrived onsite, they found that a Williamson Plumbing and Heating employee was injured while working in an unprotected trench approximately 10-feet deep. The trench's sidewall collapsed - trapping and injuring the worker.

"Williamson Plumbing and Heating was lucky to avoid tragedy here. Trench collapses can easily become underground deathtraps for workers. One cubic yard of soil can weigh as much as a small automobile in a cave-in," said Kevin Kilp, director of OSHA's Harrisburg Area Office. "Incidents like this one are preventable when an employer puts a proper protective system in place.

OSHA cited Williamson, which does business as Roto-Rooter Services Co., for one willful, six serious, and one other-than-serious violations.

The agency found that the company failed to:

  • Keep excavated materials at least 2 feet from the edge of the trench.
  • Construct trenches in accordance with allowable slopes and configurations.
  • Ensure that a competent person inspected the trench.
  • Instruct employees in recognizing and avoiding unsafe conditions.
  • Maintain OSHA injury and illness records.

Proposed penalties: $41,200.