Expensive Day at the Beach when Company Cited for Trenching Hazards

Aug. 1, 2002
Trenching hazards at a Pompano Beach job site added up to $68,500 in Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) penalties for a Florida excavation company.

As part of a national program to reduce trenching accidents and fatalities, OSHA began an inspection Feb. 12 at Powerline Road and Atlantic Boulevard where Deerfield Beach, Fla.-based Ryan Inc. Eastern employees were installing drainage pipes. Workers were observed in a seven-foot-deep trench with asphalt pavement hanging over portions of the excavation.

The company received one willful citation with a proposed penalty of $55,000 for failing to provide workers with adequate cave-in protection, such as properly sloped excavation walls.

Three serious citations with proposed penalties totaling $13,500 were issued for failing to properly secure an electrical pole; for allowing excavated material and a pallet of bricks to be placed so close to the edge of the excavation that they could have fallen on the workers or contributed to a wall collapse; and for allowing employees to work where asphalt pavement had been undermined.

"Excavation walls can collapse quickly and without warning, trapping and possibly killing workers," said Luis Santiago, OSHA's Ft. Lauderdale area director. "We are committed to preventing cave-ins, either through enforcement or compliance assistance."

Compliance assistance is a free service OSHA provides with specialists who help employers voluntarily comply with OSHA requirements. It is separate from the agency's enforcement arm.

On March 25, the agency inspected another Ryan Inc. Eastern job site, a water line extension on Miramar Boulevard in Miramar, Fla. The company received one serious citation with a $5,000 proposed penalty for an alleged excavation violation observed at that location.

OSHA issues a willful citation when the alleged violation is committed with intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations. A serious citation is issued when there is a substantial probability that the alleged violation could result in death or serious physical harm and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.

The company has 15 working days to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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