OSHA Cites Colt Utilities for Trenching and Excavation Hazards

A Pearland, Texas employer willfully risked injury to employees by ignoring pipeline inspectors who warned management to shore an excavation's walls.

OSHA issued citations and proposed penalties to Colt Utilities Inc. following an inspection that began March 19 that found safety violations at a trench and excavation site.

"We must ensure that employers protect their workers from trenching and excavation hazards, so that injury and illness rates continue to decline," said Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. "The significant penalty of $117,000 in this case demonstrates this administration's commitment to protecting the health and safety of American workers."

Colt Utilities was issued citations for two alleged willful and nine alleged serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

The willful citations noted failure to provide proper protection for employees working in a trench and to remove employees when there is evidence of a possible cave-in. OSHA issues a willful citation when an employer displays intentional disregard of or plain indifference to the requirements of the OSHA law and regulations.

The nine alleged serious violations - involving employee exposure to hazards associated with excavation - included allowing employees to work without adequate means of egress; a defective ladder; lack of personal protective equipment and fire protection; exposure to falling loads; and failure to inspect the work site by a competent person. A serious citation is issued when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

The company has 15 working days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with the OSHA Houston South area director, or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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