OSHA issued citations with proposed penalties totaling $348,000 to a Portsmouth, Ohio, construction company for exposing employees to hazardous trenching conditions that resulted in serious injuries.
The proposed fines are the largest ever levied by OSHA against a trenching contractor in Ohio.
The agency cited the company, Boone Coleman Construction Inc., with a total of nine alleged violations, six of which are categorized as willful, the most significant violation by OSHA.
"These injuries were preventable. Despite warnings by Portsmouth city officials, the company failed to comply with safe trenching and excavation practices," said OSHA Administrator Charles Jeffress. "We simply cannot allow such flagrant disregard for workplace safety and the subjecting of workers to such hazardous and potentially life-threatening work conditions."
Boone Coleman Construction, an excavations contractor operating in southeastern, Ohio, employs approximately 90 employees, 13 of whom were involved in this waterline replacement project.
OSHA inspected the site following a referral from Portsmouth city officials, who had made several unsuccessful attempts to get Boone Coleman Construction to comply with safe trenching and excavation practices, even after an earlier cave-in incident in which two employees narrowly escaped injury.
Portsmouth city personnel, who received OSHA-funded training in trenching safety and rescue procedures, assisted in the rescue response freeing two workers trapped during a cave-in at the site on March 28.
The OSHA-funded training was conducted by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) to provide safety and health training for workers in jobs with high-risk activities or hazards, which include the construction industry.
OSHA cited the company for failure to provide proper protective systems for workers in trenches in excess of 5 feet deep.
The company was also cited for failure to train employees in requirements of the excavation standard and failure to support undermined pavement, sidewalk or similar structures from possible collapse.
by Virginia Sutcliffe