Safety Buried at NY Job Site, Employer Cited and Fined

An Alden, N.Y., construction contractor failed to protect workers against a potentially fatal cave-in at a Batavia jobsite, and OSHA issued $73,800 in fines for alleged willful, serious and repeat violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

Concrete Applied Technologies Corp., doing business as CATCO, was cited for violations that occurred at a water line installation site located in Batavia, N.Y.

OSHA issued a willful citation, with a fine of $63,000, to CATCO after an inspection found three employees working in an excavation more than six feet deep that was not adequately protected against collapse. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with an intentional disregard for, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the OSH Act and regulations.

"Unprotected excavations are among the deadliest hazards in construction for workers," said John Henshaw, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. "An excavation's sidewalls can collapse without warning, burying workers beneath tons of soil before they can escape. That's why it's imperative that employers supply this basic, commonsense and legally required safeguard."

Two repeat citations, with a total fine of $9,200, were issued for failing to provide a safe means of exiting the trench and for failing to inspect the excavation and adjacent areas for hazards before employees entered the trench. OSHA issues a repeat citation when it has previously cited an employer for substantially similar hazards and those citations have become final. OSHA cited CATCO in January 2002 for similar hazards at a Depew, N.Y., work site.

A serious citation, with a fine of $1,600, was issued for exposing employees to a fall hazard by failing to supply a safe means for workers to cross over an open excavation. A serious violation exists where there is a substantial possibility that death or serious physical harm can result to an employee.

CATCO has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply with them or request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director. Citations may also be contested before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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