The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has fined a township company in New Jersey $77,000 after investigating a ditch collapse at a Rockaway Valley Road home that claimed the lives of two workers last October.

Bednar Citation

OSHA announced it has found that trench employees were working for Bednar Landscape Services Inc. lacked cave-in protection, leading to the death of two workers. As a result, the landscaping and excavating company has been cited for one willful and nine serious safety violations.

Bednar employees Oscar Portillo, 46, and Selvin Zelaya, 39, were two of four men working in the approximately 9- to 13-foot-deep ditch at a residence on Rockaway Valley Road in Boonton installing a French drain pipe when the walls collapsed. One of the two became trapped and the other jumped in to try and save him; both Portillo and Zelaya were soon under about 10 feet of dirt. A third man was not injured and a fourth managed to escape as the wall collapsed.

The willful citation was due to the trench not being adequately sloped, protected by shields, or shoring. The serious violations included not providing a ladder in the trench every 25 feet to allow safe exit, not having a competent person inspect the trench, and failures to have utilities marked out, provide head protection, and train workers on the hazards of the chemicals with which they worked.

“One cubic yard of soil can weigh as much as a small car when a trench caves in or collapses. Without the required protections, these men had no way to escape and their heartbroken families are left to make sense of a needless tragedy,” said Kris Hoffman, director of OSHA’s Parsippany Area Office. “Bednar management placed its employees in mortal danger by not using cave-in protections, and we believe these managers were plainly indifferent to the serious dangers their workers faced.”

The full citation can be viewed at


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