Huntsville, Ala., contractor cited by US Department of Labor's OSHA for
willful, serious trenching violations; more than $122,000 proposed in fines
Inspection prompted by whistleblower complaint
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – DKS Structural Services Inc., doing business as Don Kennedy and Sons House Moving Co., has been cited by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration for four trenching violations. OSHA opened an investigation after receiving a complaint filed under Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act from a whistleblower who alleged he was terminated for refusing to enter an unprotected trench. At the time of the incident, the whistleblower and other workers were performing foundation repair work at 1200 Shadow Ridge Drive in Huntsville. Proposed penalties total $122,400.
Two willful violations involve failing to provide a safe means of entrance and exit from an excavation and not providing cave-in protection for employees working in a trench that was 15 feet deep. 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. The citations carry $112,000 in penalties.
Two serious violations involve exposing employees to fall and crushing hazards by allowing them to stand in a backhoe bucket as a means to lower and raise them in the excavation, as well as exposing workers to "struck-by" hazards from loose soil, rocks and equipment by not having them wear head protection. 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. The citations carry $10,400 in proposed penalties.
"This employer knowingly put workers at risk of serious injury or death by ordering them back to work in an unprotected trench after experiencing a cave-in," said Lisa Strunk, OSHA's acting area director in Birmingham. "Risking the safety of workers is not an acceptable business decision."
OSHA standards mandate that all excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against collapse. Detailed information on trenching and excavation hazards is available on OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/trenchingexcavation/index.html.
The citations in this case can be viewed at http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/DKS_Structural_Services_316228519_0711_12.pdf*.
This Section 11(c) whistleblower investigation has been referred to the department's Office of the Solicitor for potential litigation.
DKS Structural Services Inc. is based in Huntsville and specializes in structural relocation, foundation repair and leveling. The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director in Birmingham or contest the citations and penalties 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 Birmingham Area Office at 205-731-1564.
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 information above is available in large print, Braille or CD from the COAST office upon request by calling 205-693-7828 or TTY 205-693-7755.
* Accessibility Assistance Contact OSHA's Office of Communications at 202-693-1999 for assistance accessing PDF materials.