Feb. 22, 2007
Contact: Rich Kulczewski
Phone: (303) 844-1302
DENVER -- The U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Arapahoe Utilities & Infrastructure Inc., Englewood, Colo., for unsafe working conditions following two accidents where employees were working in excavations at two construction sites in Denver. Proposed penalties total $145,000.
Citations issued against the company by OSHA's Denver area office allege two serious and two willful violations of OSHA standards. The willful citations, with proposed penalties of $140,000, were issued for failure to use required protective systems to prevent cave-ins while employees were working in an excavation. Additional penalties of $5,000 were proposed for lack of training involving fall hazards and failure to train employees on the avoidance of unsafe conditions.
One employee suffered a broken pelvis and another received bruises as a result of an excavation wall collapse during the installation of a wastewater pipe on Aug. 14, 2006. One week later on the same pipeline project, an employee's arm was broken after being struck by a 54-inch steel pipe that was being lowered into the excavation.
"These accidents, which can crush and bury employees in seconds leaving them unable to dig out, could have been avoided by following recognized safe practices for working around excavations," said Herb Gibson, OSHA area director in Denver.
"Strong enforcement, when necessary, is a key part of OSHA's efforts to reduce workplace injuries and illnesses," said Greg Baxter, OSHA regional administrator in Denver. "It is not acceptable to work in an excavation without proper protective systems providing protection against cave-ins, one of the four leading causes of employee injuries and deaths in the construction industry."
Excavation and trench hazards are so dangerous that OSHA has a National Emphasis Program on trenching that advises OSHA inspectors to stop and open an inspection whenever they see an unprotected trench.
Willful violations are those committed with intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. A serious citation is issued 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 employer has 15 working days from receipt of the citations to request an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace for their employees. OSHA's role is to assure the safety and health of America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual process improvement in workplace safety and health. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.
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