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OSHA issues large fine following construction fatality

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A 19-year-old rural River Falls man's death after an unprotected trench collapsed at a Spring Valley job site last November has resulted in a series of fines totaling $137,000 against Gordy's Pump Services, W9463 690th Ave., River Falls.

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Gordy's has two weeks to appeal and contest the fines that were handed out by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

The five fines were for safety violations, including two that were called "willful."

OSHA inspected the job site after James Tilson, a 2010 Prescott High school graduate, had died in the Nov. 3 incident.

According to OSHA's report, Tilson and another worker had just finished locating an existing waterline using a hand-held shovel when the sidewall caved in.

The trench was about 220 feet long, six feet deep and two feet wide. The other worker wasn't hurt.

OSHA's "willful violations" include failing to provide required cave-in protection and a means of getting out of the trench.

Other "serious violations" include failing to ensure the use of head protection, keep spoil piles at least two feet back from the excavation's edge, and training employees working in trenches to recognize excavation hazards.

OSHA standards mandate that all excavations five feet or deeper be protected against collapse.

Due to the willful violations, OSHA has placed Gordy's Pump Service in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program. This requires targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law.

Tilson, born in Durand, died shortly after completing basic training with the National Guard in Fort Benning, Ga.

Gordy's Pump Services is located in the town of River Falls. Gordy Schaar was the owner but his son, Jason, has since taken over.

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