US Department of Labor's OSHA cites R.E. Arnold Construction and Suntree
Technologies for willful, serious safety violations following worker injury
Management repeatedly warned of unsafe conditions
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – An employee of R.E. Arnold Construction Inc. was trapped when the wall of an excavation he was working in collapsed around him. The incident occurred as the employee removed dirt from a storm filtration system at the company's work site, and the local fire and rescue team had to remove the employee, who left the scene in critical condition. As a result, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited R.E Arnold with one willful and two serious safety violations. The subcontractor, Suntree Technologies Inc., was cited for four serious safety violations. The city of Gainesville contracted R.E. Arnold to build a retaining pond and pump station for the Depot Park.
"These employers deliberately chose not to follow established OSHA standards for protecting workers in excavations and repeatedly ignored warnings-including one on the day of the incident-that the trench was unsafe," said Brian Sturtecky, OSHA's area director in Jacksonville. "This shortcut led to a worker seriously injured and nearly killed."
R.E. Arnold was issued a willful citation for failing to provide employees working in a 15-foot-deep excavation with required protection from wall collapse hazards. A Gainesville city safety inspector informed management numerous times that the excavation was unsafe, yet safety issues were not corrected. On the day of the incident, an inspector refused to enter the trench, claiming that it was too dangerous. 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.
OSHA standards require that all trenches and excavation sites 5 feet or deeper be protected against sidewall collapses. Protection may be provided through shoring of trench walls, sloping of the soil at a shallow angle or by using a protective trench box. OSHA has created a National Emphasis Program on Trenching and Excavation.
The serious citations were issued to R.E. Arnold for exposing workers to dangerous safety and fall hazards by failing to provide them with hard hats and fall protection equipment. 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.
Suntree Technologies was cited for four serious safety violations for failure to provide fall protection for employees working at heights above 6 feet. Additionally, management did not ensure workers were wearing hard hats while inside the excavation, exposing them to hazards from falling debris. 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.
OSHA has proposed penalties of $83,000 for R.E. Arnold and $18,200 for Suntree Technologies. The current citations can be viewed at http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/REArnold-954792-06232014.pdf* .
R.E. Arnold, based in Gainesville, specializes in site preparation and underground utilities and has no previous OSHA inspection history. The company employs approximately 24 workers. Cocoa-based Suntree Technologies specializes in storm filtration products. It employs 24 people and has no previous OSHA inspection history.
Both companies have 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request a conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety & 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 Jacksonville Area Office at 904-232-2895.
According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, fatal work injuries in Florida accounted for 218 of the 4,628 fatal work injuries reported in 2012. Additional details are available at http://bls.gov/iif/home.htm.
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.
U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at http://www.dol.gov. The department's Reasonable Accommodation Resource Center converts departmental information and documents into alternative formats, which include Braille and large print. For alternative format requests, please contact the department at (202) 693-7828 (voice) or (800) 877-8339 (federal relay).
* Accessibility Assistance Contact OSHA's Office of Communications at 202-693-1999 for assistance accessing PDF materials.