Region 1 News Release: BOS 2000-012
Monday, January 24, 2000
Contact: John M. Chavez
PHONE: (617) 565-2075
BRIDGEPORT, CONN., CONSTRUCTION COMPANY CITED BY OSHA FOR ALLEGED WILLFUL, REPEAT & SERIOUS TRENCHING SAFETY VIOLATIONS; OVER $48,000 IN PENALTIES PROPOSED
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the U.S. Department of Labor has cited Anthony Julian Railroad Construction Company, Inc., of Bridgeport, Connecticut, for alleged WILLFUL, REPEAT and SERIOUS violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act at a Bridgeport excavation site, and has proposed penalties totaling $48,420 for those alleged violations.
According to Clifford S. Weston, OSHA area director in Bridgeport, the alleged violations were discovered during an inspection of an excavation site at the intersection of Boston Avenue and East Main Street in Bridgeport on December 9 & 10, 1999. "What we found," said Weston, "were employees of this company being exposed to a number of safety hazards, many of which this employer has been cited for previously."
He noted that employees were using defective ladders to enter and exit the excavation; that workers were allowed to work in a trench with vertical walls subject to cave-in without any cave-in protection; that they were working in the trench under pavement which had been undermined; and that they were allowed to work in the trench even after a small gas line had been damaged, among other problems.
"The most serious hazard we found employees being exposed to, and the one for which we are charging the employer with an alleged willful violation of OSHA standards, is that they were working in a trench 75 feet long and between 3 ½ and 7 feet deep without anything to protect them from a cave-in," Weston said.
"These employees were exposed to serious injuries or death since the sides of an unprotected trench can collapse with great force and without warning, stunning and burying workers beneath tons of soil before they have a chance to react or escape. Though no collapse occurred in this case, that in no way relieves this employer of the responsibility of providing this required safeguard," he stressed.
Weston explained that OSHA's excavation safety standard requires that excavations five feet or deeper must have a protective system in place to prevent cave-ins. Such protection can be supplied by shoring the trench's sidewalls or by sloping those sidewalls at a shallow angle. Yet, he noted, neither safeguard was in place or in use in the excavation at the time of the inspection.
He also noted that OSHA defines a "willful" violation as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and the law's regulations. It is, he stressed, the most severe category of OSHA violation.
Specifically, the company is being cited for the following alleged safety violations:
- One alleged WILLFUL violation, carrying a proposed penalty of $33,000 for: exposing employees to the hazards of trench cave-in by requiring them to work in an excavation 75 feet long and between 3 &fract12; and 7 feet deep without any cave-in protection in the trench.
- Four alleged REPEAT violations, including proposed penalties totaling $8,520 for: failing to provide employees exposed to vehicular traffic on the job site with warning vests or other means of protection; exposing to injury workers who were standing on top of and working under pavement that had been undermined and was not otherwise supported; employees allowed to work in hazardous conditions despite the presence of a competent person/foreman at the site; failing to inspect ladders for defects and allowing employees to use damaged and defective ladders on the work site without repairing them or removing them from service. [The company was previously cited for similar violations on various dates.]
- Four alleged SERIOUS violations, carrying total proposed penalties of $6,900 for: exposing workers to injury when the backhoe operator damaged a small gas line whose exact location had not been determined; failing to provide employees working in a trench with a safe means of egress; failing to have monitoring equipment available to determine if the trench remained suitable to work in after a small gas line in the trench was damaged and failing to have emergency rescue equipment on hand for the same situation; and, finally, exposing employees working in a 6 foot 6 inch deep trench to injury through the misuse of a trench box.
"The most troubling aspect of this case," Weston said, "is the fact that this employer is familiar with OSHA's excavation safety requirements as evidenced by the company's past history of safety violations. Such a pattern of repeatedly exposing employees to hazardous workplace conditions is unacceptable."
Weston urged Connecticut employers and employees with questions regarding safety and health standards to contact the OSHA area offices in Bridgeport or Hartford. He added that OSHA's toll-free nationwide hotline -- 1-800-321-OSHA (1-800-321-6742) -- may be used to report workplace accidents and fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, especially those situations which occur outside of normal business hours.
A repeat violation is defined by OSHA as one where, upon reinspection, a substantially similar violation is found.
A serious violation is defined as one in which there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard.
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, request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or 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.