Inspector Sees Employees Exposed to Cave-In Hazards, OSHA Launches Investigation

OSHA began an inspection Aug. 12 of Sunland Construction Inc. when an agency investigator noticed that the company had failed to provide a safe means of egress from a 5-foot-10-inch trench and protect workers from a cave-in hazard at a worksite in Newman, Georgia.

As a result of these conditions, the company was cited for two willful violations for exposing workers to the possibility of a trench collapse while replacing high-pressure gas lines. OSHA is proposing $140,000 in penalties. . A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

OSHA standards mandate that all excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against collapse. Detailed information on trenching and excavation hazards is available on OSHA's web site.

"Cave-ins can happen quickly, without warning and with deadly consequences. OSHA will not allow employers to be indifferent to protecting their employees against these hazards," said Andre Richards, director of OSHA's Atlanta-West Area Office.

Sunland Construction, which provides pipeline construction and related services, has been cited by OSHA three other times since 2010 at locations in Alabama, North Carolina and Texas. The violations cited in Georgia are similar to ones cited after OSHA inspected the company's construction site in Deer Park, Texas. Headquartered in Eunice, La., the company has an eastern district office in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Sunland Construction Inc. has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference with Richards or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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