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Warwick, R.I., Contractor Faces $140,800 in OSHA Fines

A Warwick, R.I., plumbing contractor that was cited by OSHA last summer in connection with the February death of a worker in a Woonsocket cave-in is in more hot water.

The company faces an additional $140,800 in fines for failing to ensure cave-in protection for its workers at another job site.

"This administration will respond aggressively with maximum fines and stringent enforcement measures when repeat offenders continue to endanger their workers. This contractor now faces an additional $140,800 in fines," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao.

In the latest case, Greenwood Plumbing, Heating and Solar Inc., d/b/a Mr. Rooter, was cited for alleged willful and serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act at a residential sewer repair project in Cranston, R.I. OSHA began its inspection on July 2 after being notified that employees were working in an unprotected 8-foot deep trench at that location.

OSHA's inspection found employees working in unprotected areas of the excavation and working in a trench box that was too small for the excavation; hazards that were exacerbated by the placement of excavated soil next to the trench. As a result, two willful citations, each carrying the maximum fine of $70,000, were issued. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations.

The company was also issued a serious citation, and fined $800, for using a defective ladder to enter and exit the trench. OSHA defines a serious violation as 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.

Earlier in the year, on Feb. 21, a Greenwood worker died in the collapse of an unprotected 11-foot-deep trench at a jobsite in Woonsocket. OSHA cited Greenwood in August for alleged willful and serious violations for failure to supply cave-in protection, train employees, inspect the trench and properly store excavated materials. A total of $89,000 in fines was proposed. The company is contesting these citations and fines.

Greenwood Plumbing has 15 business days from receipt of its latest citations and proposed penalties to either elect to comply with them, to request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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