OSHA cites Beaver County company in fatal trench collapse

BY ELIZABETH BEHRMAN | Tuesday, March 29, 2016, 2:48 p.m. Related Stories
• Officials identify Clearfield man killed in Butler County trench collapse

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Updated 16 hours ago

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited and fined a Beaver County plumbing company the agency said “took unacceptable risks” that led to a trench collapse that killed an employee last fall.

A Rooter Man of Pittsburgh, based in Hookstown, must pay $174,000 in penalties because Jacob Casher, 21, of Clearfield County was killed Sept. 28 as a crew was installing a sewer line behind Shelbourne Personal Care, a nursing home, on Dinnerbell Road in Penn, Butler County.

The 11-foot-deep trench collapsed, and it took several hours to recover his body, police said.

“A Rooter Man of Pittsburgh knowingly took unacceptable risks in an excavation, which led to a tragic and preventable death of a young man with his whole future ahead,” Christopher Robinson, director of OSHA’s Pittsburgh Area Office, said in a statement. “Common sense safety practices would have prevented this trench from turning into a worker’s grave.”

A woman who answered the phone for A Rooter Man on Tuesday said the owners were unavailable for comment.

OSHA investigators cited the company for nine violations — seven of them “serious” and two of them “willful,” according to a news release. Not only did the company expose multiple workers to unsafe conditions that day, but investigators said the company’s owner and on-site foreman were aware of the “highly unstable” condition of the excavated soil and did not keep piles of soil and rock the mandated minimum of 2 feet from the edges of the trench.

Workers on site that day were working without hard hats, water was accumulating in the trench and no one on site was trained in first aid, according to the agency.

OSHA hasn’t issued any other citations to the company in the past five years, a spokeswoman said. According to the company’s website, A Rooter Man has more than 400 franchise locations in Canada and across the United States.

Elizabeth Behrman is a staff writer for the Tribune-Review. She can be reached at 412-320-7886 or Lbehrman@tribweb.com.