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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

OSHA fines two companies $130,500 for trenching hazards at Kearny, NJ, site

Many workers' compensation accidents occur while working in trenches. The employer in NJ is insulated under the exclusivity doctrine from a claim for negligence. An employee's only remedy in many instances is only the NJ Workers' Compensation benefits.

VM Construction Inc., based in Miami, and Concrete Systems Inc., based in Sterling, were cited by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration for willful and repeat trenching hazards found at a Kearny work site. OSHA's November 2012 investigation was prompted by an imminent danger complaint that alleged workers 
English: Logo for the United States Occupation...
English: Logo for the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
operated in an unprotected excavation 8 feet deep.

One willful violation, carrying a $28,000 penalty, was cited against VM Construction Inc. for those workers operating in an unprotected excavation. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health. The construction company was also cited for one serious violation, with a $2,400 penalty, for failing to ensure a competent person inspected the excavation prior to allowing workers to enter. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Concrete Systems Inc., a concrete and masonry contractor, faces $100,100 in penalties for two repeat violations involving workers operating in an unprotected excavation and entering an excavation that was not inspected beforehand by a competent person. A repeat violation is issued when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. Similar violations were cited in 2008.

Because of the nature of the hazards and the violations cited, Concrete Systems has been placed in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. OSHA's SVEP focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations. Under the program, OSHA may inspect any of the employer's facilities if it has reasonable grounds to believe there are similar violations.

"Improperly protected trenches can collapse suddenly and with great force," said Kris Hoffman, director of OSHA's Parsippany Area Office. "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."

Detailed information on safeguards for excavation and trenching is available at

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Read more about trenches and workers' compensation benefits.
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