R.I. Contractor Faces Nearly $60,000 in OSHA Fines for Cave-In Hazard

OSHA cited J.A.M. Construction Co. Inc. for alleged willful, repeat and serious violations of excavation safety standards at a Newport, R.I., worksite. The Middletown, R.I., contractor faces a total of $59,500 in proposed fines.

The citations and penalties resulted from OSHA's April 15 inspection of a water line installation at the Cluny School on Brenton Road. The inspection found J.A.M. Construction employees working in an excavation deeper than 6 feet that lacked adequate protection against cave-ins. OSHA standards require that all excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against collapse.

“The hazard here was imminent and potentially deadly,” said Patrick Griffin, OSHA’s area director in Providence. “The walls of an excavation can collapse instantly, burying or crushing employees before they can react or escape. While it is fortunate that no collapse occurred, protecting employees against cave-ins cannot and must never be a matter of luck.”

OSHA consequently has issued to J.A.M. Construction one willful citation, carrying a proposed fine of $49,000. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.

The agency also has issued the company one repeat citation, with a $6,000 fine, for storing excavated material less than 2 feet from the edge of the excavation. OSHA had cited the company in September 2007 for a similar hazard at a Middletown jobsite.

Additionally, OSHA has issued J.A.M. Construction two serious citations, with $4,500 in fines, for inadequate support for an undermined stone wall crossing the top of the excavation, as well as no protective helmets for employees working in the excavation. A serious citation is issued when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Detailed information on trenching and excavation safety, including an e-Tool, is available on OSHA's Web site at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/constructiontrenching/index.html.

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