Region 1 News Release: BOS 2000-030
Tuesday, February 29, 2000
Contact: Ted Fitzgerald
PHONE: (617) 565-2074
Over $73,000 in Penalties Proposed against N. Pandelena Construction Co., Inc.
OSHA CITES HAMPSTEAD, NEW HAMPSHIRE, CONTRACTOR FOR ALLEGED WILLFUL AND SERIOUS TRENCHING SAFETY VIOLATIONS AT MANCHESTER WORKSITE
The U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited N. Pandelena Construction Co., Inc., of Hampstead, New Hampshire, for alleged Willful and Serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act at a Manchester, New Hampshire, excavation worksite and has proposed penalties against the contractor totaling $73,450.
According to Paul O'Connell, acting OSHA area director for New Hampshire, the alleged violations were discovered during an inspection initiated October 14, 1999. On that day, OSHA's Concord office learned of a possible imminent danger situation involving employees working in an unprotected excavation at a worksite located at the Youth Development Center at 1056 North River Road in Manchester.
The inspection found an employee of N. Pandelena Construction working in an excavation 15 to 17 feet in depth which lacked adequate protection against a possible collapse of its sidewalls. In addition, the excavation lacked a ladder or other means for employees to safely exit the trench and employees working in the trench were not wearing hardhats for required protection against head injuries. N. Pandelena Construction Co., Inc., which is headquartered at 6 Starwood Drive in Hampstead, had seven employees working onsite at the time of the inspection.
"Cave-in protection is essential in this type of work situation since the walls of an excavation can collapse suddenly and with great force, stunning and burying workers beneath tons of soil before they have a chance to react or escape," said O'Connell, who noted that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 36 American workers died in trench cave-ins in the U.S. in 1998.
"As an excavation contractor, this employer is well aware that excavations five feet or more in depth must be protected against cave-ins," he said. "This can be accomplished by shoring the sidewalls, sloping the soil at a shallow angle or by use of a protective device such as a trench box. Yet that was not the case here. As a result, OSHA is issuing a willful citation, its most severe category of citation, for this item and proposing a fine of $70,000, the maximum allowed under the law."
O'Connell explained that a willful citation is issued only when OSHA believes, based on its inspection, that an employer knew a specific safeguard was required yet apparently chose not to provide it.
"In this case, the employer failed to provide adequate cave-in protection even though several excavation collapses occurred on this jobsite shortly before OSHA's inspection," he said. "That no fatalities or serious injuries resulted from these incidents in no way absolves the employer of the obligation to provide this basic, commonsense and required safeguard."
Specifically, the citations and proposed penalties encompass the following:
One alleged Willful violation, with a proposed penalty of $70,000, for:
- an employee working in an excavation that had not been adequately sloped or shored against collapse.
- [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.]
Three alleged Serious violations, with $3,450 in proposed penalties, for:
- failure to provide employees with a means of egress while working in the excavation;
- failure to ensure that employees working in the excavation were wearing protective helmets;
- five steel chains slings were not labeled with required information including their lifting capacity.
- [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.]
O'Connell urged Granite State employers and employees with questions regarding workplace safety and health standards to contact the OSHA area office in Concord at 603-225-1629 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.
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.