Fatal work injury that killed Gerald Thompson was preventable, MN-OSHA cites DSM Excavating

Gerald Lyle Thompson’s work-related death could have been prevented. That’s how I see the findings of Minnesota OSHA (MN-OSHA) in the agency’s citations against his employer, DSM Excavating.

The 51 year-old was working in June 2015 at a construction site for Ryland Homes in Lakeville, Minnesota. The initial press reports indicated that Thompson and his brother were installing drain tile inside a 6 to 8 foot deep trench. Thompson was trapped at the bottom of the trench when the soil collapsed onto him. I wrote about the incident shortly after it occurred.

Inspectors with MN-OSHA conducted an inspection at the construction site following the fatal incident. The agency recently issued citations to DSM Excavating for eight serious violations and proposed a $55,500 penalty. Among other violations, the company failed to have a system in place to protect against the cave-in, allowed workers to be inside a trench with accumulated water, and failed to have a competent person inspect the trench to ensure it was safe for workers to enter it. Two of the serious violations come with a $25,000 penalty. (Under federal OSHA, the maximum penalty for a serious violations is only $7,000.) MN-OSHA’s records posted on-line indicate (as of January 5, 2016) the company is contesting the citations. No citations were issued to Ryland Homes.

When some local press initially reported Gerald Lyle Thompson’s death, they called it an accident. An “accident” suggests the circumstances were unforeseen or could not have been avoided. MN-OSHA’s findings tell a different story. Call it cutting corners, call it poor management, call it breaking the law. Whatever you want to call it, Thompson’s work-related death could have been prevented, it was no accident.

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Let's assume that the company actually pays a $55,000 fine, which is very unlikely to happen. $55,000 for causing a worker's death...That's the best that an agency set up to protect workers' health & safety can do...? Really?

By Tony Oppegard (not verified) on 08 Jan 2016 #permalink