Excavation Hazards Get OSHA's Attention

Two companies were cited in March for allegedly violating safety standards related to cave-in protection.

Unsafe conditions at sewer and pipeline excavation sites have been on the minds of OSHA investigators lately. The agency issued citations in the past few weeks against two companies, one working in Pennsylvania and the other in Massachusetts, for violating safety standards related to cave-in protection.

Samaras Construction Co. of Monaco, Pa., a sewer line company that employs 10 workers, was cited Wednesday and received a proposed penalty of $130,650. OSHA cited Delta Gulf Corp., a Shreveport, La.-based contractor working on the construction of a natural gas pipeline in Massachusetts, for alleged violations chiefly concerning cave-in, crushing and electrocution hazards (see March 10 news item "Louisiana-based Contractor Cited for Safety Violations").

OSHA began its investigation of Samaras on Oct. 1 in response to a complaint of unsafe working conditions made when the company was installing approximately 3 miles of sewer lines in Cherry Hill, Pa. It was alleged that employees were working in unsloped excavations between 10 and 12 feet deep.

Samaras was given three willful violations for failure to provide proper cave-in protection and failure to keep excavated materials at least 2 feet from the edge of the trench. Also levied were two repeat violations for failure to wear protective helmets and failure to provide workers with an exit from excavation, and a serious violation related to the company's use of defective trenching equipment.

Another company installing a sewage system was cited in January following a fatal trench collapse in Washington, W.Va.

The recent violations have prompted OSHA to implement a public awareness program called "Dig Trenches, Not Graves," which alerts employers and employees to the hazards of working in and around trenches.

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