Region 1 News Release: BOS 98-199
Thursday, October 22, 1998
Contact: Ted Fitzgerald, (617) 565-2074
Nearly $50,000 in Penalties Proposed against C B Utility Co., Inc.
OSHA CITES BRISTOL, RHODE ISLAND, CONTRACTOR FOR ALLEGED WILLFUL, REPEAT AND SERIOUS SAFETY VIOLATIONS AT EAST GREENWICH, R.I., EXCAVATION WORKSITE
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the U.S. Labor Department has cited C B Utility Co., Inc., a Bristol, Rhode Island, contractor, for alleged Willful, Repeat and Serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act at an East Greenwich, R.I., excavation worksite and has proposed penalties totaling $49,400.
According to Kipp W. Hartmann, OSHA area director for Rhode Island, the alleged violations were discovered during a spot inspection conducted August 24, 1998, at an excavation located on Post Road in East Greenwich near the East Greenwich Well. C B Utility was installing water lines for the Kent County Water Department and had six employees working at the jobsite at the time of the inspection.
"OSHA's inspection found employees working in a seven foot deep trench which lacked any sort of protection against a potentially fatal collapse of its sidewalls onto those employees," said Hartmann. "This hazard was aggravated by the storage of excavated spoils close to the edge of the trench, failure to train employees to recognize trenching hazards and the absence of daily inspections by a competent person that would have identified and corrected such conditions."
Hartmann explained that adequate and effective collapse protection must be in place and in use before workers enter a trench since a trench's walls can collapse swiftly and without warning, stunning and burying workers beneath tons of earth before they have a chance to react or escape.
He noted that the considerable size of the fine proposed in this case stems from the classification of the collapse protection citation as willful, the most severe category of OSHA citation. OSHA issues willful citations only when it believes, based on the information gathered in its inspection, that the employer knew what steps were required to protect workers yet apparently chose not to take them.
"This employer is no stranger to OSHA's trenching safety requirements," said Hartmann. "OSHA has cited this company three times since 1994 for a lack of adequate collapse protection at jobsites in Barrington, Warren and Warwick, and also cited it this past January for not conducting required safety inspections at the Warwick worksite."
Hartmann reminded employers that trenching safety is the subject of an OSHA national emphasis program. Under that program, OSHA inspectors who encounter an excavation in their official travels will stop and examine that excavation. If hazards are observed, an inspection will be opened on the spot and appropriate citations and penalties issued for violations.
In this case, such an inspection resulted in the following citations and proposed penalties against C B Utility Co., Inc.:
One alleged Willful violation, with a proposed penalty of $44,000, for:
One alleged Repeat violation, with a proposed penalty of $3,000, for:
failure to have a competent person make frequent and regular inspections of the jobsite to identify and correct unsafe conditions [The company had previously been cited by OSHA for a substantially similar violation in a citation issued February 13, 1998 following an inspection at a Warwick, R.I., worksite].
Two alleged Serious violations, with $2,400 in penalties proposed, for:
Hartmann urged Ocean State employers and employees with questions regarding workplace safety and health standards to contact the OSHA area office in Providence and added that OSHA's toll-free, nationwide hotline --1-800-321-OSHA (1-800-321-6742)-- may be used to report workplace accidents or fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, especially if they occur outside of normal business hours.
A willful violation is defined by OSHA as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations. A serious violation is defined 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. A repeated violation is issued by OSHA when the agency has cited an employer for a substantially similar violation within the last three years and that citation has become final.
OSHA is empowered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to issue standards and rules requiring employers to provide their employees with safe and healthful workplaces and jobsites, and to assure through workplace inspections that those standards are followed.
The company has 15 working days from receipt of the 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.
The information in this release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request. Voice phone: (617) 565-2072. TDD (Telecommunications Device for the Deaf) Message Referral Phone: 800-347-8029.