OSHA began an inspection July 16, after being notified that a 13-foot-deep trench had collapsed, trapping a worker who was rescued by co-workers.
Investigators found that the Birmingham-based company had allowed employees to work in a 10-foot-deep vertical trench, which had an 8-inch, fully charged water main running through it, according to the agency. Additionally, employees were allowed to re-enter the trench after the collapse, again exposing them to cave-in and drowning hazards.
A.R. Butler received two willful citations, with proposed penalties totaling $112,000, for failing to provide a protective system for the trench, such as a trench box or proper shoring or sloping, and failing to properly support the water main.
OSHA issues a willful citation when a company has shown intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations. The company failed to heed concerns about the unsafe condition of the trench and to follow requirements of its own trench safety program, according to the agency.
The company has 15 days to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
"For worker injuries and fatalities to decline in this industry, we must make sure that employers protect employees from trenching hazards," said Cindy Coe Laseter, OSHA's regional administrator in Atlanta. "The significant penalty of $112,000 in this case demonstrates our commitment to protecting the health and safety of America's workers."