Region 4 News Release: USDL 98-161
Tuesday, October 06, 1998
Contact: Raymond Finney or Jonathon Worrell, (770) 493-6644
TWO METRO ATLANTA COMPANIES FINED $224,000 FOLLOWING FATAL CAVE-IN
OSHA Official Urges Contractors To "Dig Trenches, Not Graves!"
The U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) today cited two metro Atlanta companies and proposed penalties totaling $224,000 following a fatal trenching accident.
The July 29 cave-in caused the death of a 28-year-old worker, one of four J&R Grading and Pipeline, Inc., employees at a Hampton, Ga., work site. The victim had been installing a french drain in a trench approximately 320 feet long, 35 inches wide, and as deep as 19 feet in some places.
"Working in trenches is dangerous, even when the best precautions are taken," said Charles N. Jeffress, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. "In this case officials from two companies knowingly put employees in harm's way, and ultimately caused the death of a man, by callously disregarding well-recognized safety practices. Employees should be digging trenches, not their own graves. Stiff penalties must be levied against these companies for their failure to protect their workers."
According to Raymond Finney, OSHA's Atlanta-East area director, "Trenching accidents, many of which result in fatalities, are among the leading causes of injury in the southeast. Since July 1995, there have been 18 trench-related accidents in the Southeast and 83 nationally."
OSHA inspectors found that neither the deceased worker's employer nor the job's general contractor, Metro Atlanta Construction Company, Inc., took any action to provide a protective system for employees working in an excavation. That failure resulted in one willful citation with a penalty of $70,000 against each employer. J&R Grading received an additional $70,000 willful citation for failing to train employees about hazards associated with excavation work.
J&R Grading was also fined a total of $14,000 for two additional serious citations. One of these dealt with the company's failure to provide a stairway, ladder or other safe means of entering and exiting the trench. The company was also cited because excavated materials or equipment were not kept the required minimum of two feet away from the edge of the trench.
Finney said, "There is no excuse for the failure of these two contractors to follow trenching guidelines. Both employers were aware of the highly-hazardous nature of trench work and knew that this particular trench was unsafe but failed to take any action to protect the workers whose lives were at risk."
OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the OSH Act and regulations.
A serious violation is one in which there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and that the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.
The two companies have 15 working days to contest OSHA's citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.