Region 4 News Release: USDOL: 00-226
Wed., Dec. 20, 2000
Contact: Lawrence J. Falck, III
PHONE: (813) 626-1177, ext. 0
OSHA FINES FLORIDA UTILITY CONTRACTOR NEARLY $150,000 FOR TRENCHING AND EXCAVATION VIOLATIONS
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Heuer Utility Contractors, Inc., and proposed penalties totaling $149,500 for safety violations found at a trenching and excavation job site in Englewood.
"This company chose to disregard the danger to workers in the name of expediency. Company officials decided to shortcut safety when they saw a storm approaching," according to Lawrence J. Falck, OSHA's Tampa area director. "Too many workers are trapped or killed when management makes that kind of decision."
Following a June 27 inspection, OSHA cited the company for two willful violations with proposed penalties totaling $125,000 for not:
shoring and sloping trench walls, and providing safe means for workers to enter and exit the trench;
providing proper protection while employees worked in the trench.
According to Falck, management officials had been warned by another contractor on the job not to allow workers in the trench. Additionally, OSHA cited Heuer previously for similar violations and the company's own safety manual addresses excavation hazard prevention methods.
Two serious violations with penalties totaling $10,500 were proposed for allowing employees to work in a trench where water was accumulating and locating a water pump at the edge of the excavation where it could fall in on the workers, and the vibrations from the equipment could cause the trench walls to collapse.
The agency also proposed one repeat violation with a penalty of $14,000 for not properly bracing a utility pole which could have fallen across the excavation causing a cave-in or injuring workers.
Falck said the inspection was conducted as part of the agency's national emphasis programs for trenching and excavation and energized overhead power lines. The agency initiated the programs because too many workers were being injured and killed under circumstances similar to those found at this job site.
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.
OSHA defines a serious violation as 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.
Repeat violations occur when an employer has been cited previously for a substantially similar condition and the citation has become a final order of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Largo-based Heuer Utility Contractors, Inc., which employs about 50 workers and had five at the Englewood job site, has 15 working days to contest OSHA's citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Inspection of the worksite was conducted by OSHA's area office located at 5807 Breckenridge Parkway, Suite A, Tampa, Fla., 33610-4249; telephone: (813) 626-1177.