Severe Violator Fined $140,000 For Trench Collapse

Severe Violator Susquehanna Supply Company was fined by OSHA in the death of an employee.Pennsylvania company Susquehanna Supply Company of Williamsport, PA has been fined $140,000 after investigations into a July, 2015 trench collapse that killed an employee. The company, a severe violator by OSHA declaration was cited for willful violations during a repair of a small, steel frame bridge.

Severe Violator Status Accompanies Repeated Violations

The bridge repair company had been given the Severe Violator status for the willful violations stemming from cave-in protection. Following the accident, OSHA was called upon to complete an investigation of the events that led up to the fatality. They determined that an employee had entered a 12-15 foot trench to complete work that could not be reached by an excavator. There was a failure in providing the proper level of cave-in protection and an adjacent trench wall collapsed burying him in  the soil.  The company has a history of safety incidents dating back to the 1970s and has been a severe violator repeatedly.

Mark Stelmack, director of OSHA’s Wilkes-Barre office, was critical in his judgment, “Susquehanna Supply Co. took unacceptable risks with its workers’ lives by failing to comply with common-sense safety practices intended to prevent trenching tragedies such as this from occurring.  Employers who expose workers to cave-in hazards from an unprotected trench place those employees’ lives in immediate jeopardy. This will not be tolerated.”

In June of 2010, OSHA published directive CPL 02-00-149, otherwise known as the Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP)  establishing enforcement policies and procedures which concentrate resources on inspecting employers who have demonstrated indifference to their OSH Act obligations by willful, repeated, or failure-to-abate violations. The Instruction replaced OSHA’s Enhanced Enforcement Program (EEP).  Among the sweeping changes, High-Emphasis Hazards were defined and  targeted and include fall hazards and hazards identified from the  National Emphasis Programs (NEPs): amputations, combustible dust, crystalline silica, excavation/trenching, lead, and shipbreaking.