OSHA cites New York contractor for exposing workers to excavation hazards at high school construction site

Contractor faces $197K in fines after complaint leads to inspection

VERONA, N.J. - Acting on a complaint in June 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration found employees of one of the area's largest general contractors working in an unprotected 10-foot deep excavation at a suburban New Jersey high school, in violation of federal safety and health laws. OSHA announced today it has issued citations for nine violations - one willful and eight serious - to The Landtek Group Inc., a New York-based general contractor that specializes in sports facility design and construction. The company faces $197,752 in fines as a result.

The citations - issued on Dec. 20, 2016 - follow an OSHA inspection at Verona High School in Verona on June 22, 2016, where the agency found that Landtek allowed its workers to enter and work in an unprotected, 10-foot deep excavation that had no protective systems in place, as required. Landtek is the general contractor for site improvements at Verona High School, including the construction of new tennis courts and synthetic turf fields. "Without needed protections in place, an excavation can quickly become a grave as thousands of pounds of soil collapse upon workers below ground. The Landtek Group must re-examine its safety procedures and take all available precautions - including installing shoring or other means - to prevent unexpected movement or collapses of the soil that can lead to disaster," said Kris Hoffman, director of OSHA's Parsippany Area Office. The contractor was cited with a willful violation for exposing workers to cave-in hazards because the excavation lacked proper cave-in protection or safeguards. OSHA cited serious violations related to Landtek's failure to prevent employee exposures to fall, atmospheric and explosion hazards, as well as failures to:

  • Have a competent person inspect the excavation.
  • Have a written permit space program.
  • Train employees on safely performing their job duties and the hazards associated with them.
  • Coordinate rescue and emergency services for workers entering a sewer manhole.
  • Provide mechanical retrieval equipment in case of an emergency.

OSHA has a national emphasis program on trenching and excavations. The trenching standards require protective systems on trenches deeper than 5 feet, and soil and other materials kept at least 2 feet from the edge of trench.

Trenching Injuries & Deaths chart. Chart shows both Trench-Related Fatalities. Trench-Related Reported Injuries. 2012: 8 fatalities, 2 injuires 2013: 15 fatalities, 2 injuires 2014: 11 fatalities, 13 injuires 2015: 11 fatalities, 16 injuires 2016(YTD): 23 fatalities, 12 injuires Source: osha.gov. https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/trenchingexcavation/index.html

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.

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Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)