Region 2 News Release: NY 224
December 11, 2001
Contact: Kate Dugan
Phone: (215) 861-5101
UNSAFE TRENCHING MAY COST N. J. CONTRACTOR $77,000
PARSIPPANY, N.J. -- Failure to provide a safe trenching operation for its workers could cost Florham Park, N.J., contractor Onorato Construction, Inc. $77,000 in penalties proposed by OSHA for alleged willful violations of federal workplace safety standards, the U.S. Labor Department agency announced today.
OSHA's action follows an inspection initiated when an OSHA compliance officer noticed workers in a 12-foot deep, unprotected excavation. The work is part of a project to widen a culvert traversing the Musconetcong River in Stanhope, N.J.
"Accidents, particularly cave-ins, in trenching operations are among the most preventable hazards that exist," said OSHA Area Director David Ippolito. "Yet, some contractors simply refuse to get the message that workers face serious dangers when not properly protected. Trenching excavations remain a serious threat to workers' lives."
New Jersey State Police, trained by OSHA as part of its New Jersey Highway Construction Work Zone partnership, had repeatedly warned the company about the danger of a trench cave-in. The employer had also received citations from OSHA for trench protection deficiencies in April
Additionally, the contractor allowed employees to work on the Musconetcong Bridge without fall protection, exposing them to a 12-foot life-threatening fall onto unprotected steel "I" beams.
The total proposed penalties for these two alleged willful violations is $77,000. A willful violation is defined by OSHA as one committed with intentional disregard for, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the OSHA Act and its regulations.
The company has until Dec. 20 to appeal the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.