Trenching Violations Lead to OSHA Penalties

Exposing employees to trenching hazards at a Fulton, Miss., job\r\nsite has led to $141,000 in proposed penalties against Columbus-based\r\nPerma Corp. by OSHA.

Exposing employees to trenching hazards at a Fulton, Miss., job site has led to $141,000 in proposed penalties against Columbus-based Perma Corp. by OSHA.

The alleged willful and serious citations for violation of safety standards resulted from a planned inspection of the Fulton worksite during which OSHA found employees installing water pipes in an unprotected trench with nearly vertical walls.

OSHA cited Perma Corp. for three alleged willful violations, with proposed penalties of $136,500, for failing to protect workers involved in trenching activities.

Hazards included failing to slope or shore trench walls or provide other protection from cave-in when working in a trench over 5 feet deep; not providing a ladder or other safe means to enter and exit the trench, and not keeping machinery and excavated matter at least 2 feet from the edge of the excavation.

A hydraulic excavator, operated directly over the trench, piled excavated material up to 5 feet high and 8 feet wide at its edge.

"This employer showed intentional disregard for the safety of its workers," said Clyde Payne, OSHA''s Jackson area director. "No action was taken to correct the hazards at this worksite even though officials were aware of the dangerous conditions and the company''s safety manual addresses trenching safety procedures. In addition, inspections over the last five years have resulted in citations against Perma Corp. for similar violations. Failure to slope or shore trench walls or provide other protection from cave-in has resulted in workers being killed."

The remaining $4,500 proposed penalty was assessed for two alleged serious citations, one of which addressed the foreman''s practice of permitting a worker to stand on and ride the hydraulic excavator.

Both OSHA standards and the manufacturer''s safety manual forbid this practice which exposes workers to being struck, crushed by or thrown off the equipment. The second serious citation was issued for not having someone trained in first aid at the site.

Willful violations are those committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations. Serious violations are those in which a substantial probability of death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.

by Virginia Foran

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