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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
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News Release

OSHA News Release: [06/10/2014]
Contact Name: Scott Allen or Rhonda Burke
Phone Number: (312) 353-6976
Email:
Allen.Scott@dol.gov or Burke.Rhonda@dol.gov
Release Number: 14-0797-KAN

Construction worker suffers severe injuries after fall into trench

US Department of Labor's OSHA cites Gershenson Construction for 11 safety violations

FENTON, Mo. — Gershenson Construction Co. Inc. has been cited by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration after a worker suffered a broken vertebra when he was struck by a partially suspended load of sewer pipe and knocked to the bottom of an unprotected 13-foot-deep trench. OSHA has cited the company for 11 safety violations, including one willful and 10 serious, for failing to protect workers from struck-by and trench cave-in hazards. Proposed penalties total $110,400.

"Failing to protect workers from struck-by hazards and allowing employees to work in a trench without protective systems is inexcusable and will not be tolerated," said Larry Davidson, OSHA's acting area director in St. Louis. "Being struck-by vehicles and other objects is a leading cause of construction-related injuries and deaths. Gershenson Construction has a responsibility to protect workers from known hazards in the construction industry."

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The employee was struck-by one end of a 12-foot-long section of sewer pipe being maneuvered by an excavator. The impact caused him to fall to the bottom of the 13-foot-deep trench. Two other workers were actively working inside the unprotected trench to install a new sewer system at the Riverside & Yarnell Sanitary Relief Sewer construction project, near the intersection of Henderson and Larkin Williams Roads in Fenton. The trench lacked required safeguards to prevent the walls from caving in and seriously injuring workers.

OSHA issued one willful violation to Gershenson Construction Co. for failing to ensure workers were protected from cave-in hazards while working in a trench that exceeded a depth of 5 feet. OSHA standards mandate that all excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against collapse. Detailed information on trenching and excavation hazards is available.

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.

Ten serious violations were issued for exposing workers to the hazards of being struck-by a partially suspended load; lack of adequate and frequent inspections of the work site for hazards; inadequate training of employees; lack of head protection; use of damaged rigging equipment; lack of permanently affixed legible identification markings on rigging equipment; and allowing an excavator to operate within 10 feet of energized, overhead power lines.

Other violations involved trenching standards, such as allowing exposed and unprotected gas and water lines in a trench, and failing to remove workers from a trench until necessary precautions were taken to ensure their safety. 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.

View the citations: http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/Gershenson_Construction_Co_952203_0609_14.pdf

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and notice of proposed penalties to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. If the company does not file or contest within that period, it must abate the cited conditions within the period ordered in the citations and pay the proposed penalties.

To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's St. Louis Area Office at 314-425-4249.

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 exist for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.