trenching

Florida Utility Contractor Faces Fines After Worker Deaths

Four Douglas N. Higgins Inc. employees have died on the job.

A South Florida utility contractor familiar with workplace fatalities is once again facing OSHA citations.

Douglas N. Higgins Inc. exposed employees to cave-in and other hazards at a Naples, Fla. worksite, and is now facing $18,659 in penalities after an inspection.

“Despite being recently cited for violations that contributed to four worker fatalities, this employer continues to disregard well-known safety and health requirements,” said Condell Eastmond, OSHA Fort Lauderdale area office director, in a statement. “Employers involved in excavation work must follow safety procedures to ensure that workers are properly protected from a trench collapse and other trench hazards.”

The latest citations come after OSHA inspected the worksite as part of the Agency’s National Emphasis Program on Trenching and Excavation. Inspectors found Douglas N. Higgins Inc. allowed employees to work in a trench without cave-in protection and failed to maintain a safety and health program on excavation hazards.

The company is no stranger to agency investigations. On Jan. 16, 2017, 34-year-old Elway Gray, 49-year-old Louis O’Keefe, and 24-year-old Robert Wilson, died after succumbing to noxious gases while working for Douglas N. Higgins, according to the Miami Herald. Higgins and a subtracting firm racked up citations totaling $119,507. 

In May 2018, a steel plate fell and fatally injured another Douglas N. Higgins worker while the employee was trenching sewer lines. OSHA proposed $162,596 in fines after completing an investigation into the incident.

“This company's continued failure to protect and train their employees on well-known hazards resulted in another preventable tragedy," Eastmond said to the media. 

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