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Thursday, March 10, 2016

NJ Company Fined $52,000 by OSHA for Unprotected Trench

Employer name: D.S. Meyer Enterprises LLC, 34 Maple Ave. Waldwick, New Jersey

Site: 45 Waterview Blvd., Parsippany, New Jersey
Citations issued: On Feb. 29, 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Parsippany Area Office issued citations for five serious and one willful violation.
Investigation findings: On Jan. 19, 2016, OSHA responded after being notified of an imminent danger created by unprotected trench hazards as workers repaired an underground water line. When OSHA inspectors arrived at the site, they found a worker in an unprotected trench more than 8 feet deep with water accumulating in it from the leaking water main. OSHA subsequently cited D.S. Meyer Enterprises with a willful violation for allowing the worker to be exposed to a cave-in hazard. OSHA also cited the company for failing to ensure that workers in the trench wore hard hats, exposing workers to a spoil pile containing rocks and asphalt just inches from the open trench, and use of an improper ladder for accessing the trench.
OSHA conducted this inspection under its national emphasis program focused on trenches and a local emphasis program on construction.
The employer has 15 business days from receipt of the citation and proposed penalty to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Proposed penalty: $52,500
Quote: "Despite knowing cave-in protection was required, D.S. Meyer Enterprises chose instead to willfully expose workers in that trench to life-threatening conditions," said Kris Hoffman, director of OSHA's Parsippany Area Office. "The fatality rate for excavation work is 112 percent higher than the rate for general construction. Trench protection systems are more than a required OSHA safety standard; they are a matter of life and death."

The Exclusivity Doctrine has barred employees in from bringing a liability action against an employer for an unprotected trench. Even though the employer committed any intentional wrong, the employee was barred by the Workers' Compensation Act from instituting a common-law action against the employer for the injury. The court declared that the New Jersey Workers' Compensation Act provided a prompt and efficient remedy for injured workers' claims against an employer for injuries that occurs in the workplace. Van Dunk v. Reckson Associates Realty Corp., 210 N.J. 449, 45 A.3d 965, 162 Lab. Cas. (CCH) P 61265 (2012).

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