OSHA Cites Company for Endangering Workers in Trench

Exposing employees to trenching hazards, which led to the death of one employee and injury to another, may cost Pro Choice Construction Inc. $58,800 in proposed penalties.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued the proposed penalties and cited the company for alleged serious and willful safety violations.

On Aug. 23, two employees were inside a trench box installing and aligning sewer pipe. Rather than moving the trench box, management officials allowed the workers to step outside the box to install a final section. As the employees worked unprotected in the eight-foot-deep, seven-foot-wide trench, the sandy walls of the excavation collapsed and trapped them.

OSHA cited the company for one alleged willful safety violation, with a proposed penalty of $49,000, for not providing employees with adequate protection while they worked in the trench. A willful violation is one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

"Management officials were aware of the hazards. They knew how quickly trench walls could collapse," said G. T. Breezley, OSHA's Atlanta-East area director. "In fact, there had been several wall collapses at the site before this fatal accident, yet employees were routinely allowed to work outside the trench boxes when a job was near completion."

OSHA also cited the Warner Robins-based company for two alleged serious safety violations with proposed penalties totaling $9,800 for failing to remove employees from hazardous areas and failing to train employees to recognize and avoid unsafe conditions. Serious violations are those in which a substantial probability of death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard.

Pro Choice Construction Inc. has 15 working days to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

edited by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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