Illinois Company Cited for Exposing Workers to Cave-In Hazards

Aug. 10, 2011
Martin & Company Excavating Inc., an underground utility construction and earth-moving company in Oregon, Ill., has been cited by OSHA for one willful and three serious safety violations for allegedly failing to protect workers from cave-ins during trenching operations at a Forreston, Ill., worksite. The company faces proposed penalties of $69,300 following a May inspection, which was conducted under the agency’s Trenching and Excavation National Emphasis Program.

“Cave-ins during excavations are a leading cause of worker fatalities,” said Kathy Webb, OSHA’s area director in North Aurora. “Safety should be paramount on every job site and OSHA is committed to protecting workers, especially when employers fail to do so.”

The willful violation, with a proposed penalty of $56,000, was issued because the company allegedly failed to protect workers who were installing a water line in a trench approximately 8 feet below grade. During the trenching operation, the water line was damaged and flooded the trench, which did not have cave-in protection. A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

The serious violations, with proposed penalties of $13,300, include failing to have a competent employee on site to ensure workers were removed from the trench when there was evidence of an unsafe situation which could result in a possible cave-in; failing to equip an adjacent section of pavement that was hanging over the trench with a support system to protect employees from possible collapse; and failing to keep excavated materials or equipment at least 2 feet from the edge of excavations. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

OSHA standards mandate that all excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against collapse. Detailed information on trenching and excavation hazards is available on OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/trenchingexcavation/index.html.

Martin & Company Excavating has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with Webb, or contest the citations and penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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