Without Strong Foundation, Safety Program Doesn't Hold Up

When an employee of a foundation repair company is electrocuted during a tunnel excavation, OSHA steps in and issues proposed penalties totaling $148,500.

An Olshan Foundation Repair Co. employee in Houston was electrocuted during a tunnel excavation beneath a residence undergoing a foundation repair. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited the company with alleged safety and health violations and proposed penalties totaling $148,500.

The OSHA Houston south area office conducted the investigation that began July 30, 2001, and cited Olshan with two willful, one serious and one other-than serious violation.

The two willful violations were issued for failing to ensure that electrical equipment was free from hazards, such as missing ground prongs, exposed conductors and damaged insulation. The second willful violation was for failing to use proper ground fault circuit breakers or an assured equipment grounding program to automatically trip off any leakage of electrical current. A willful violation is defined as one that is committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations.

The serious violation was for failing to train employees in recognizing and avoiding hazardous conditions such as confined space, working in a conductive and damp location with defective electrical equipment. A serious violation is one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.

The other-than-serious violation was failing to document injuries and illnesses on the OSHA 200 log. The law requires employers to log in any occupational illness, injury or fatality. The company did not log in the fatality. An other-than-serious violation is a hazardous condition that would probably not result in serious harm or injury to employees.

edited by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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