Contractor Cited for Trenching Safety Violation Again

Fiore Construction Co. was cited by OSHA for the third time this year for alleged trenching safety violations.

For the third time this year OSHA has cited Fiore Construction Co. for alleged trenching safety violation on an water main installation project.

Following an inspection at an Exeter, New Hamp., excavation worksite, OSHA proposed penalties totaling $57,800 against the Leominster, Massachusetts-based contractor.

According to David May, OSHA area director for New Hampshire, the alleged violations were discovered during an inspection initiated Oct. 14, 1999, in response to reports of an accident in an excavation where Fiore was installing water mains.

A Fiore employee was injured when a section of pipe that was being lowered into an unprotected trench slipped and pinned him against the trench's sidewall.

"The inspection found that the trench in question, which was six to eight feet in depth, lacked any form of cave-in protection to prevent a collapse of its sidewalls onto anyone working in that trench," said May.

May said that collapse protection is essential since the sides of a trench can collapse with great force and without warning, stunning and burying workers beneath tons of soil before they have a chance to escape.

"Though no collapse occurred in this case, that in no way relieves an employer of the responsibility of providing this baseline, well-known -- and required -- safeguard," said May.

May explained that OSHA's excavation safety standard requires that excavations five feet or deeper must have a protective system in place to prevent cave-ins.

Such protection can be supplied by shoring the trench's sidewalls or by sloping those sidewalls at a shallow angle. Yet, he noted, neither safeguard was in place or in use in the excavation at the time of the inspection.

Previously, OSHA issued a willful trenching citation, with a proposed fine of $55,000 to Fiore on June 14 and a Serious trenching safety citation with a $1,000 proposed fine on Aug. 16. Both citations are currently under contest.

"Of special concern is the fact that this is the third time this past year OSHA has cited this contractor under this standard on this project," noted May. "OSHA has no choice but to categorize the trenching citation as willful. Willful citations are issued only when OSHA believes, based on inspection, that the employer knew what measures were required to protect workers yet apparently elected to ignore them."

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