OSHA’s Dec. 3, 2009, inspection found that the trench lacked both cave-in protection and a ladder or other safe means for workers to exit the trench. OSHA standards require that all excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against collapse. In addition, an excavator, driven to the edge of the trench, caused soil and rocks to fall into the trench.
“No one ever thinks the trench he or she is working in will collapse, but the fact is cave-ins happen in seconds, crushing and burying workers beneath tons of soil and debris before they have a chance to react or escape,” said Brenda Gordon, OSHA’s area director for southeastern Massachusetts. “That’s why mandatory safeguards must be in place and in use at all times.”
As a result of its findings, OSHA has issued two willful citations to CELCO Construction, with $50,000 in fines, for the unprotected excavation and missing ladder; two serious citations, with $4,000 in fines, for the excavator at the trench’s edge and for the lack of a high visibility vest for an excavator operator exposed to vehicular traffic; and one other-than-serious citation, with a $1,200 fine, for an incomplete injury and illness log.
OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for worker safety and health. OSHA issues serious citations when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from hazards about which the employer knew or should have known.
Detailed information on trenching hazards and safeguards, including a trenching safety QuickCard, is available at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/trenchingexcavation/construction.html and http://www.osha.gov/Publications/trench/trench_safety_tips_card.pdf.
CELCO Construction has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, participate in an informal conference with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.