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Excavation Hazards in the Big Easy Mean Big Citations and Fines

OSHA has cited a Bessemer, Ala., construction company for an alleged failure to protect employees from the hazards of an excavation at a construction site in New Orleans and has proposed penalties of $70,200.

Roland Pugh Construction Inc. was cited for alleged willful, serious and repeat violations of safety standards following an OSHA inspection conducted as part of a national program to prevent fatalities and injuries in trenching and excavations. The inspection began March 30 at a construction site where the company, which employs about 200 workers, was laying a drainage pipeline in a trench 6.5 feet deep. An OSHA investigator driving by the worksite observed apparent cave-in hazards.

The alleged willful violation was issued for failing to protect employees from the hazards of a cave-in. The employer did not provide a protective system such as sloping of the trench walls or installation of a trench box capable of withstanding a trench wall collapse. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with intentional disregard of or plain indifference to the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

Two alleged serious safety violations were issued for failing to remove debris from the trench edge that could fall down on employees working in the trench and for failing to train and instruct employees in the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions and the regulations applicable to work conducted in excavations. A serious violation is one that could cause death or serious physical harm to employees from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

The alleged repeat violation was for failing to provide employees with a warning vest marked with high visibility or reflectorized material while working around vehicular traffic. A repeat violation is issued when the same employer has violated the same OSHA standard within the last three years. OSHA fined Roland Pugh Construction for the same violation after an Oct. 9, 2001, inspection.

The company has 15 working days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with the Baton Rouge area director or contest the citations and penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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