Walter M. Wysowaty, PE, CME, Civil Engineering Consultant ::::
Case Facts: The plaintiff was employed by an environmental consultant who was responsible for work related to the removal of underground storage tanks (UST), including the collection of soil to be tested for contamination. A contractor qualified for excavations associated with UST’s performed soil excavation to remove the tank to a depth of somewhere between 7 and 10 feet. The resultant soil wall was generally vertical with some undermining that existed after removal of the tank. Shoring at the excavation was not installed. The plaintiff testified that he did not feel that excavation was safe, yet approached the top elevation of the excavation to collect various data. While standing at the top elevation, the soil wall failed resulting in injuries to the plaintiff. The plaintiff had received OSHA training prior to the subject incident.
Expert Analysis: The Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) specifically states that it is the employer’s responsibility to initiate and maintain a safety program and that the program shall provide for frequent and regular inspections of the jobsite by a competent person. The employer is also responsible for the training and supervision of their employees. Furthermore, at least two Standard Interpretations have been issued by OSHA indicating the following: