OSHA fines developer $18,900 after fatal August trench collapse

tchitwood@ledger-enqurier.comDecember 30, 2013 

Citations show the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has fined Allen Development Group of Columbus $18,900 for safety violations discovered during an investigation of the Aug. 26 trench collapse that killed two workers at Summit Pointe Apartments and Villas, 3071 Williams Road.

The collapse reported at 10:54 a.m. that Monday buried James Jackson, 50, and Allen Thomas, 46, as they worked with a tamper packing dirt in the trench. Four other workers escaped unharmed.

The bodies were recovered around 6:20 p.m. that day after up to 30 workers using shovels, buckets and extra lumber spent hours shoring up the trench walls as they dug.

The trench walls had not been braced before the collapse, authorities said. The development company said Jackson and Thomas worked for a subcontractor.

Dated Dec. 20, the OSHA citations are based on inspections between Aug. 26 and Nov. 21. Among the serious violations of the 1970 Occupational Safety and Health Act are alleged:

• A lack of knowledge in “the means, methods, or the requirements regarding safety” in excavation and trenching operations.

• A lack of training for employees so they could “recognize and minimize hazards” in such operations.

• A lack of hard hats or other protective head gear for those working in a 12-foot-deep trench, where they were at risk of head injury from falling objects.

• A failure to inspect the 36-foot-long trench for risks of a cave-in.

• A failure to brace the trench walls to prevent collapse. “Trench excavations, 5 feet or more in depth, should be protected against cave-in unless made entirely in stable rock,” the citation said.

• A neglect to ensure the guard on a circular saw blade was in place. The guard had been blocked in the open position, OSHA said.

The citations also allege an “other than serious” violation of using electrical equipment that had no grounding pin on what should have been three-pronged plugs. The plugs on a circular saw and an extension cord were missing the third prong, OSHA said. OSHA fined Allen Development $2,800 on each of the serious safety violations. No fine was assessed on the “other than serious” citation.

Excluding weekends and holidays, the company has 15 days from Dec. 20 to contest the citations.

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