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Excavation Fatality Results in OSHA Citation

OSHA cited Waters Construction Co., of Bridgeport, Conn.,\r\nfor safety\r\nviolations and proposed $62,300 in fines against the company.

OSHA has completed an inspection prompted by the death of a worker at a construction site on Interstate 95 in Orange, Conn.

The agency cited Waters Construction Co., of Bridgeport, Conn., the contractor which employed the deceased worker, for safety violations and proposed $62,300 in fines against the company.

On May 3, 2000, employees of Waters Construction were working inside an excavation when an Akerman excavator slid into the excavation, striking two workers, fatally injuring one of them.

According to Clifford S. Weston, OSHA area director in Bridgeport, Conn., the alleged violations chiefly concern the contractor''s failure to follow basic excavation safety requirements.

Weston explained that the sides of the 5 to 10 foot deep excavation in which the employees were working, lacked cave-in protection and that the blade of the Akerman excavator was set too close to the edge of the excavation, a location from where the machine could, and did, fall into an unprotected hole.

In addition, the location at which the employees were working lacked a ladder or other safe means of exiting and entering the excavation.

"There was nothing to prevent the sides of the excavation from caving in on employees while they worked inside," said Weston. "This hazard was exacerbated by the placement of the excavator and piles of excavated spoils close to the edge. These two factors left the workers exposed to the twin hazards of being buried in a collapse and having the equipment and excavated spoils fall on top of them.

Weston emphasized that OSHA standards mandate that excavations 5 feet or more in depth be protected against collapse.

A variety of safeguards, ranging from sloping the sides at a shallow angle to shoring the sidewalls, among others, can be used, but an effective form of cave-in protection must be in place before workers enter the excavation, according to OSHA.

In addition, equipment, materials and excavated soil must be stored at least 2 feet back from the edge of the excavation both to avoid their weakening the sides and to prevent their rolling or falling into the excavation.

"There''s nothing unusual or complex about these safety requirements nor is there any acceptable reason for an employer''s failure to satisfy them," said Weston. "Simply put, had these safeguards been in place and in use, this accident would not have happened."

Waters Construction employs 75 workers, 14 of whom were working at the job site at the time of the accident.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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