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Region 4 News Release ATL: 03-14
Wed., Feb. 5, 2003
Contact: Lorette Post Les Grove
Phone: (404) 562-2078 813-626-1177 x/0
At Venice, Fla., Job Site
U.S. Labor Secretary Says Workers Placed At Significant Risk
VENICE, Fla. -- The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Johnson Bros. Corp. for safety violations at a Venice, Fla., job site. The company was fined $126,000 for failing to protect workers from trenching and excavation hazards.
"Trenching accidents are a major cause of job-related injuries and fatalities, particularly in the Southeast," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. "This employer placed workers at significant risk by failing to take basic precautions against a trench collapse."
OSHA began an inspection of the work site on Aug. 9 after an inspector observed unprotected employees laying concrete pipe for a storm water drain in a 12-foot-deep trench. The agency's national emphasis program on trenching and excavation and its Florida Construction Accident Reduction Emphasis Program (CARE) allowed for an immediate inspection.
OSHA cited Johnson Bros. for two willful violations of trenching standards for allowing spoil piles from two to eight-feet-high to collect at the edge of both sides of the excavation and failing to protect workers in a trench over five feet deep by sloping or shoring it or providing a trench box.
According to OSHA, sandy soil, together with a steep slope and heavy soil piles at the edge of the trench, significantly increased the threat of employees being engulfed by the soil or struck by falling debris.
"This was a tragedy waiting to happen," said Les Grove, OSHA's Tampa area director. "The employer allowed employees to work in hazardous circumstances even though its safety and health plan addressed trench safety procedures; the foreman and superintendent on the job had received "competent person" training for trench excavations, and a trench box was available only one-half mile from the job site."
Headquartered in Litchfield, Minn., Johnson Bros. Corp. employs 500 workers, 32 of whom were on the Venice site, to provide civil and infrastructure services. The company has 15 working days to contest OSHA's citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Inspection of the job site was conducted by OSHA's area office at 5807 Breckenridge Parkway, Suite A, Tampa, Florida; telephone: 813-626-1177.
OSHA is dedicated to saving lives, preventing injuries and illnesses and protecting America's workers. Safety and health add value to business, the workplace and life. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.
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