Joint Regional Release - Regions 1 & 6
Monday. March 6, 2000
Nearly $300,000 in Fines Proposed against Delta Gulf Corp. of Shreveport
OSHA CITES LOUISIANA-BASED CONTRACTOR FOR FIVE ALLEGED WILLFUL SAFETY VIOLATIONS ON NORTHERN MASSACHUSETTS NATURAL GAS PIPELINE PROJECT
The U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Delta Gulf Corp., a Shreveport, Louisiana-based contractor working on the construction of a natural gas pipeline in Northern Massachusetts, for five alleged Willful violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act at two pipeline installation sites in Methuen, Mass., and has proposed penalties against the company totaling $290,000.
According to K. Frank Gravitt, OSHA area director for Middlesex and Essex counties, the alleged violations were discovered during two safety inspections initiated in August and October 1999, respectively, at excavations located near Route 213 in Methuen, and chiefly concern employees exposed to cave-in, crushing and electrocution hazards.
The first inspection was initiated on August 31, 1999, in response to an employee complaint about excavation safety hazards and found employees exposed to potential cave-in hazards from working in an inadequately protected trench box and from working in unprotected areas of an 8.5-foot deep excavation. The workers were also exposed to crushing injuries from the unexpected movement of a side boom tractor or its load. They also faced the risk of falling from and being struck by moving pickup and flatbed trucks due to their riding in the backs of these trucks without benefit of seats and seatbelts.
The second inspection was begun on October 29, 1999, and resulted from a report that a Caterpillar excavator had made contact with an energized overhead power line. The inspection determined that an excavator had indeed struck a power line and that employees therefore had been exposed to electric shock hazards due to the contractor's failure to maintain a safe working distance from the power line and have the line de-energized, grounded and shielded against accidental contact. In addition, workers were once again found to be exposed to cave-in hazards while working in unprotected areas of another 8.5-foot deep excavation.
"While all these citations address hazards that can cause death or serious injury, the excavation safety citations are the most disturbing since Delta Gulf was cited last year for seven similar violations following OSHA inspections of pipeline installation sites in Rockingham County in New Hampshire," said Gravitt, who added that the company had also been previously cited for violations involving overhead power lines and riding of unauthorized vehicles.
Noting that Bureau of Labor Statistics figures show that 36 workers died in construction-related cave-ins in 1998, Gravitt explained that OSHA standards require that any excavation five feet or more in depth must be protected against cave-ins since its walls can collapse without warning, cascading tons of soil and debris onto workers before they have time to react or escape.
He also reminded employers that a trench box is an accepted means of protection but only if it is properly designed, constructed and used, and employees do not work in unprotected sections of the excavation.
"There's no excuse for these hazards existing in the first place and even less for their reoccurrence," he said. "The fact no fatalities or serious injuries occurred here in no way absolves this employer of the responsibility of supplying and maintaining these baseline, commonsense -- and mandated -- safeguards for workers."
As a result, Delta Gulf is being cited for five alleged Willful violations, the most severe citation OSHA can issue, with proposed fines totaling $290,000 for:
- employees exposed to cave-in hazards while working in unprotected areas of an 8.5-foot deep excavation and while working in an inadequately protected trench box in the excavation;
- employees exposed to cave-in hazards while working in unprotected areas of an 8.5-foot deep excavation;
- employees exposed to crushing injuries due to unexpected movement of a side-boom tractor and/or its load;
- employees exposed to electric shock hazards when an excavator came in contact with an energized overhead power line;
- employees exposed to the hazard of falling from and being struck by moving vehicles while riding in the backs of pickup and forklift trucks without seats or seat belts.
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.
Gravitt urged eastern Massachusetts employers and employees with questions regarding workplace safety and health standards to contact the OSHA area offices in Methuen or Braintree 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 on excavation safety can be accessed through OSHA's internet website, www.osha.gov. Cursor down to "Outreach", click on the "Construction" link, then "Construction Topics", then "Trenching & Excavation".
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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