Region 1 News Release: NY 143
Tuesday, May 2, 2000
Contact: Ted Fitzgerald
PHONE: (617) 565-2074
C.B. Utility Co., Inc. Previously Cited 21Times for Trenching Hazards
OSHA PROPOSES OVER $100,000 IN FINES AGAINST BRISTOL, RHODE ISLAND, CONTRACTOR FOR WILLFUL, REPEAT AND SERIOUS SAFETY VIOLATIONS AT WARWICK TRENCHING WORKSITES
The U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has proposed $102,500 in fines against C.B. Utility Co., Inc., a Bristol, Rhode Island, contractor working on a Warwick, R.I., sewer line installation project, for alleged Willful, Repeat and Serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
According to Kipp W. Hartmann, OSHA area director for Rhode Island, the alleged violations were discovered during inspections of three sewer line excavations located on Darrow Drive, Pevear Avenue and Winston Avenue in Warwick and chiefly concern inadequate protection against cave-ins for employees working in trenches more than nine feet in depth. The company was also cited for not adequately training employees to recognize and avoid hazards associated with working near energized overhead power lines. At the time of the inspection, C.B. Utility, Co., Inc., which is headquartered at 99 Tupelo Road in Bristol, was installing sewer lines for the City of Warwick.
"There are no halfway measures when it comes to trenching," said Hartmann. "The speed and force of a trench collapse can bury a worker under tons of crushing earth literally in a heartbeat."
The first inspection began on November 1, 1999, after OSHA learned of an instance in which a C.B. Utility worker contacted an overhead power line. While investigating that incident, an OSHA inspector identified two unprotected trenches, one on Darrow Drive, the other on Pevear Avenue. Three days later, on November 4, OSHA inspectors returned to the jobsite and found employees working in another inadequately protected trench, this one located on Winston Avenue.
Hartmann explained that the size of the fines proposed in this case reflects the classification of two of the citations as willful, the most severe category of OSHA violation, as well as C.B. Utility's long history of trenching safety violations. Since 1993, the contractor has been cited 21 times for violations of OSHA trenching safety standards at various jobsites in Warwick, Warren and Barrington, Rhode Island and in West Haven and Bridgeport, Connecticut.
In this latest case, employees were exposed to cave-in hazards while working in unprotected areas of the trenches and while working in trench boxes that were either defective or too small for the trenches in which they were placed. In one instance, a supervisor watched while an employee worked in an unprotected section of a trench.
"There is no excuse - none - for an employer to fail, time and again, to supply the basic, simple and well-recognized safeguards which will absolutely and completely protect workers laboring in trenches," said Hartmann, "Though no fatalities or serious injuries occurred in this case, 36 American workers lost their lives in construction-related trench collapses in 1998. For every one that died, another 50 suffered serious injuries, such as broken bones and internal organ damage, caused by the crushing weight of the falling earth."
Specifically, the citations and proposed penalties encompass:
Two alleged Willful violations, with proposed penalties of $87,500, for:
- failure to provide adequate cave-in protection for employees working in trenches and failure to have a competent person ensure that such protection was provided as conditions warranted;
- inadequate sloping of the soil above trench boxes, the tops of which were 18 inches below the crest of the trench, and failure to have a competent person conduct inspections to ensure adequate protection of employees in the trench.
Two alleged Repeat violations, with $12,000 in penalties proposed, for:
- employees not adequately trained to recognize and avoid hazards encountered while working near overhead electric power lines;
- failure to provide adequate cave-in protection for employees working in a trench.
One alleged Serious violation, with a proposed penalty of $3,000, for:
- inadequate sloping of the soil above trench boxes, the tops of which were 18 inches below the crest of the trench, and allowing the walls of an excavation to extend four feet below the bottom edge of the trench box.
Hartmann urged Ocean State employers and employees with questions regarding workplace safety and health standards to contact the OSHA area office in Providence at 401-528-4669 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.
He added that detailed information and resources on excavation safety are available on OSHA's Internet website www.osha.gov by clicking on the following links: "Outreach", "Construction", "Construction Topics", "Trenching and Excavation".
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 defined by OSHA as one where, upon reinspection, a substantially similar violation is found.
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.
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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.