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OSHA cites firm following trenching fatality in Pocatello

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Boise Area Office has cited Bowman’s Inc. of Mountain Home for violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act related to unsafe working conditions in trenches, resulting in a fatality at a Pocatello worksite.

“Unprotected trenches can become deathtraps in an instant when cave-ins occur,” said Richard S. Terrill, OSHA’s regional administrator in Seattle, in a statement. “This employer did not take the necessary steps to address hazards ahead of time and to educate employees on safe trench operations.”

OSHA’s investigation following the death of a pipe layer buried in a trench on Sept. 16, 2009, found two alleged willful and three alleged serious violations.

The willful violations involve a foreman who was aware of the hazardous conditions and failed to act, and failing to provide cave-in protection for employees working outside the trench shield. OSHA issues a willful citation when an employer exhibits plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.

The alleged serious violations are for failing to protect workers exposed to an unsupported, exposed active gas line; failing to provide a ladder for access and exit of employees working outside of the trench shield; and improper use of the trench shield.

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  2. It seems the incidents of near death events from improperly supervised, trained and equipped crews is on the rise. Perhaps it is the down turn in the economy and people are spending less on training, maintenance and trying to hire on the cheap. Nonetheless, organizations such as OSHA clearly provide distilled knowledge and experience (albeit sometimes from others unfortunate experiences) cannot be discounted. It is a challenge to price your services competitively but when it comes at the expense of a human life, one really needs to step back and reevaluate what is truly important. Life or the almighty Dollar???