Region 1 News Release: 12-103-BOS/BOS 2012-010
Jan. 25, 2012
Contact: Ted Fitzgerald
US Labor Department's OSHA proposes $169,000 in fines to Hartford, Conn.,
contractor for repeatedly exposing workers to cave-in hazards
HARTFORD, Conn. – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed a total of $169,000 in fines against contractor Penney Construction Co. LLC in Hartford, chiefly for exposing its workers to cave-in hazards while repairing a sewer line in a 10-foot-deep trench on Park Street.
An inspection by OSHA's Hartford Area Office found that not only did the trench lack any protection to prevent the walls from collapsing onto workers, the cave-in hazard was intensified by the presence of an unsupported sidewalk and catch basin overhanging the trench. OSHA standards require that trenches or excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against collapse through shoring, sloping of the soil or use of a protective trench box. Even after being informed that the conditions posed an imminent danger, the employer continued to send workers into the trench. These hazards resulted in citations for two willful violations with $140,000 in fines. A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.
Five serious violations with $29,000 in fines involve rocks and soil falling into the trench, not testing the sewer line for hazardous atmospheres, a lack of personal protective equipment and not adequately training the workers to recognize the hazards associated with their work. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
"This employer repeatedly sent its workers into harm's way even after being told that the unguarded trench posed a clear, immediate and potentially deadly threat," said Paul Mangiafico, OSHA's area director in Hartford. "These workers could have been crushed or buried alive in seconds."
Detailed information on trenching and excavation hazards as well as safe working procedures is available online at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/trenchingexcavation/index.html.
OSHA has placed Penney Construction in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. Initiated in June 2010, the program focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations. For more information on SVEP, visit http://s.dol.gov/J3.
The citations can be viewed at http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/penneys-construction-314406406-01202012.pdf*.
Penney Construction has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's Hartford office at 860-240-3152.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.
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U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at http://www.dol.gov. The information above is available in large print, Braille, audio tape or disc from the COAST office upon request by calling 202-693-7828 or TTY 202-693-7755.
* Accessibility Assistance: Contact OSHA's Office of Communications at 202-693-1999 for assistance accessing PDF documents.