Ferguson Hall, a contracting company working for UR, recently met with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to contest a $70,000 fine. The fine came when OSHA determined that Ferguson Hall willfully ignored safety precautions in an excavation cave-in that killed a worker last summer.

Brandon McLane, 21, was killed at UR on July 20 when an eight foot deep water line excavation collapsed on him. The collapse crushed him and the dirt buried him to his shoulders.

OSHA investigation that followed found that the excavation had no cave-in protection.

“OSHA standards require every time you have an excavation or trench, it must be protected against collapse,” assistant regional director of the U.S. Department of Labor Public Relations Office Ted Fitzgerald said.

There are several ways to prevent cave-ins. The excavation site can be boxed in, sloped or benched with wood or metal.

Because the excavation site had no such protection, OSHA issued Ferguson Hall a “willful violation” citation.

“In this case, OSHA issued a ‘willful violation’ citation because we believe the company did not supply collapse protection for this site at which the employee was killed,” Fitzgerald said.

Ferguson Hall has a history of excavation safety violations. In both 1999 and 2004 they were given OSHA citations for similar violations.

Postler and Jaeckle, the contracting company which was overseeing Ferguson Hall, could not comment on the investigation.

This is a rare citation considering that only about six willful violation citations are issued every year, out of the hundreds of citations in this area. “Willful violation” citations are the most severe cases and result in a $70,000 fine.

Earlier this week, Ferguson Hall met with OSHA to negotiate an agreement. However, no settlement was reached and a litigation process has begun.

“If [the litigation process] goes the full route, it will lead to a hearing in front of an administrative law judge with an independent occupational safety and health review commission which is separate from OSHA and the labor department,” Fitzgerald said. “However, this will be several months down the line.”

Jarrett can be reached at bjarrett@campustimes.org.

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