The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, has announced that Susquehanna Supply Company, Inc., of Williamsport, Pennsylvania has been charged in a ‘criminal information’ of willfully committing an OSHA violation that resulted in an employee’s death. ‘Criminal informations’ are only allegations, said the Attorney’s Office; a charged entity is presumed to be innocent unless and until found guilty in court.
The Attorney’s Office said that the rehabilitation project for Pennsylvania Department of Transportation began in June 2015 and that it involved digging large trenches at each end of the bridge. Under regulations issued by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), an employee working in a trench must be protected from cave-ins by an adequate protective system, such as sloped walls.
On 7 July 2015, a Susquehanna Supply Company employee entered a trench at one end of the bridge to remove additional soil. The trench was approximately 3.6m deep. Although Susquehanna Supply Company was aware of the applicable OSHA regulations, the company had not implemented a protective system in the trench, said the Attorney’s Office. While the employee was working, one of the trench’s vertical dirt walls collapsed, burying him up to his chest and crushing him against the bridge’s concrete abutment. The collapse caused massive trauma to the employee’s upper body and killed him almost instantly.
The case was investigated by OSHA before being prosecuted by the Attorney’s Office.
The maximum penalty under federal law for the offence is a US$500,000 fine and a term of probation, although the judge is required to consider and weigh a number of factors, including the nature, circumstances and seriousness of the offence; the history and characteristics of the defendant; and the need to punish the defendant and protect the public.