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2 workers die in unprotected trench

North Carolina residents might be interested to learn about the results of an investigation into the deaths of two workers that was recently completed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. After its review of a fatal trench cave-in, OSHA found a New Jersey landscaping company guilty of willfully disregarding the safety of its workers. The company was cited for one willful safety violation and nine serious safety violations and fined $77,000 as a result of the fatal workplace accident.

The OSHA investigation was launched on Oct. 1, 2014 after two men died while working for Bednar Landscape Services Inc. in New Jersey. At the time, the workers were in the process of installing a French drain system at James Dixon Farm in Boonton. The men died when the unprotected trench that they were working in collapsed.

Although OSHA requires that deep trenches must have cave-in protections, the 13-foot trench that the New Jersey workers were in had none. By not sloping the soil, shoring the trench walls or using a trench box, the landscape company was found to have violated workplace safety standards. According to an OSHA spokesperson, an unprotected trench is a potential death trap that no person should ever enter.

When employers fail to comply with OSHA safety guidelines, workers may be seriously injured as a result. A worker who has sustained injuries in an accident that was caused by such a failure may claim financial benefits through workers' compensation insurance. An injured worker also has the right to report the safety violations to OSHA, and the employer is prohibited from retaliating against the worker for doing so.

Source: EHS Today, "OSHA: Lack of Cave-In Protections Led to Trench Collapse," Sandy Smith, April 10, 2015

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