Trenching Hazards Put Employer $63,000 in the Hole

A Florida employer is cited and fined for trenching violations that put employees at risk of injury or death.

Disney World it ain't.

Exposing employees to trenching hazards at an Orlando job site has led to $63,000 in proposed penalties against BRH-Garver Inc. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued willful and serious citations for alleged violation of safety standards following a May 5 inspection of a 29th Street job site.

"Trench walls can collapse quickly and without warning, trapping and possibly killing workers," said Les Grove, OSHA's Tampa area director. "This inspection was conducted under the CARE program after company employees were observed working in an unprotected trench with vertical walls."

OSHA, in response to a growing number of deaths and injuries among Florida's construction workers, began the CARE -- Construction Accident Reduction Emphasis -- program in 1999 with safety training classes held across the state for employers and employees and an increase in inspection activities.

OSHA issued two alleged willful citations, with proposed penalties totaling $56,000, against the pipeline construction company for failing to properly slope or shore the walls of a nine-foot trench and for exposing employees to other cave-in hazards by allowing them to work in an unsafe trench.

The company also received two alleged serious citations with proposed penalties totaling $7,000 for failing to provide employees with a ladder or other safe means for entering and exiting the trench and for allowing excavated material to accumulate along the edge of the excavation.

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.

Recently, to help small employers comply with OSHA's standards and regulations, the Tampa area office hired a compliance assistance specialist, a position separate and distinct from the agency's enforcement program.

Longwood, Fla.-based BRH-Garver Inc., has 15 working days to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

edited by Sandy Smith

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