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Region 5 News Release: 14-87-CHI
Jan. 21, 2014
Contact: Scott Allen Rhonda Burke
Phone: 312-353-6976


Chicago engineering company fails to protect workers in trench
U.S. Labor Department's OSHA proposes $105,600 in penalties for Pan-Oceanic Engineering Co.

CHICAGO – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Pan-Oceanic Engineering Co. Inc. with willful and repeat safety violations for failing to protect workers from trenching hazards at a Chicago job site. OSHA initiated the inspection after witnessing an employee working in an unprotected trench greater than 8 feet in depth. Proposed penalties total $105,600.

"It is unacceptable that Pan-Oceanic Engineering would allow workers to access an unprotected trench," said Gary Anderson, OSHA's area director in Calumet City. "Since 2003, this company has been cited multiple times for violations of trenching standards. Trenching hazards result in numerous fatalities and injuries every year. Companies who specialize in this type of work have a responsibility to protect their workers from fatalities."

OSHA opened the inspection under the national emphasis program for trenching and excavation, which was implemented in the 1980s. Due to the willful and repeat violations found at the site, the company has been placed in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

OSHA issued one willful citation for failing to provide cave-in protection for employees in a trench. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for, or plain indifference to, employee safety and health.

Two repeat violations were cited for failing to post legible traffic signs at hazardous points in a construction zone and for allowing an employee to access an unsupported trench beneath a street. A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. Similar violations were cited at a job site in Chicago in May 2010.

Additionally, OSHA issued one serious citation to Pan-Oceanic Engineering Co. for allowing a worker to access a trench after deficiencies were found at the site. 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 standards mandate that all excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against collapse. Detailed information on trenching and excavation hazards is available at

The current citations can be viewed at*

OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law and focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations. Under the program, OSHA may inspect any of the employer's facilities or job sites.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, 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 Calumet City Area Office at 708-891-3800.

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

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U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at 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 materials.