US Department of Labor's OSHA proposes $70,070 fine for PTS Contractors Inc.
for cave-in hazards during trenching operations
Company placed in Severe Violator Enforcement Program
GREEN BAY, Wis. – PTS Contractors Inc., a Green Bay-based excavation contractor, has been cited by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration for four repeat and two serious safety violations carrying proposed penalties of $70,070. OSHA began its inspection Aug. 28 in response to a complaint alleging cave-in hazards at a job site in Wautoma, where workers were installing storm manholes and connecting utilities in a trench approximately 8 feet deep.
"It's unacceptable that PTS Contractors failed to follow safety standards that protect workers from known excavation hazards, such as a trench collapse," said Robert Bonack, OSHA's area director in Appleton. "These types of hazards result in numerous fatalities and injuries. No job should put workers at risk due to lack of employer-provided training and protection."
Four repeat violations were cited for failing to provide a means of safe access and egress during trenching and excavation work; keep excavated material away from the edge of the trench; not using protective systems, such as harnesses, properly; and have a competent person remove workers from a trench when identifying hazards. 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 in 2009 and 2010.
Additionally, two serious violations were cited for failing to provide a safe and acceptable means to locate underground utilities, which resulted in a gas line being struck and damaged by excavating equipment, and to protect workers from cave-in hazards. 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 http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/trenchingexcavation/index.html.
As a result of the inspections, OSHA has placed PTS Contractors in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program. The program mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. The program focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations. OSHA has inspected the company five times since 2009, and 28 times since 1984. Fourteen inspections involved serious, willful and repeat violations of excavation hazards.
PTS Contractors 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 Appleton Area Office at 920-734-4521.
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.