Orange, Conn., Contractor Hit with Fines for Cave-in Hazards

An unprotected trench and other hazards at a Walgreens construction site in New Haven, Conn., resulted in OSHA proposing a total of $74,600 in fines against an Orange, Conn., contractor.

OSHA opened its inspection on July 26, 2007, after an agency inspector spotted Louis Gherlone Excavating Inc. employees working in unprotected trenches seven to nine feet in depth. OSHA standards require that all trenches five feet or deeper be protected against collapse. The agency also found other violations at the sewer line installation site, including potential fall hazards from an unprotected walkway, exposure to potential injuries from loose rocks, debris and falling objects and a chain sling not marked with its lifting capacity.

“An unprotected trench can collapse in seconds, burying employees beneath tons of soil and debris before they can react or escape,” said Robert Kowalski, OSHA's area director in Bridgeport. “The hazard is so severe that OSHA inspectors will stop and open an inspection on the spot whenever they observe an unprotected trench, as happened in this case.”

In addition to the citing the lack of cave-in protection, which was issued a proposed fine of $56,000, OSHA also issued two repeat citations for hazardous conditions similar to those cited in a 2006 inspection of Louis Gherlone Excavating at a West Haven job site. At that time, the company was cited for failure to provide a safe means of exit for employees from trenches and for failure to inspect the trenches for hazardous conditions.

Other violations found at the site included potential fall hazards from an unprotected walkway, exposure to potential injuries from loose rocks, debris and falling objects, and a chain sling not marked with its lifting capacity.

A call made to Louis Gherlone Excavating Inc., for comment was not returned.

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