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Region 6 News Release: OSHA-03-149
Wednesday, July 23, 2003
Contact: Diana Petterson or Elizabeth Todd
Phone: (214)767-4776, Ext. 222 or 221
HOUSTON -- The Fishel Co. of Houston should have taken steps to protect employees from the dangers of a cave-in at a local excavation site this past winter, according to citations issued to the company by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The company now faces $99,500 in fines for allegedly not following established safety standards.
OSHA's Houston South area office began an investigation on Jan. 28 following a complaint that employees were not protected against possible cave-ins while working in a trench more than 25-feet deep at the intersection of Autrey and Graustark in Houston.
OSHA cited The Fishel Co. with one alleged willful and nine alleged serious violations of safety standards.
The Fishel Co., headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, designs, builds and maintains distribution systems for telecommunications and specializes in underground utilities. The company employs 2,000 workers nationwide, 30 of whom worked at the Houston site.
"By not adhering to OSHA standards to properly slope, shore or shield the excavation site, this company exposed workers to a possible cave-in that threatened their lives," said Ray Skinner, area director of the Houston South area office.
The alleged willful violation was for failing to protect employees from excavation cave-ins through the use of an adequate protective system. OSHA determined that the shoring system was not designed to protect employees working at a depth greater than 25 feet. A willful violation is one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations.
The alleged serious violations included failing to adequately train employees on the hazards of entering a confined space, failing to provide training on the use of protective equipment, failing to install informational signs at hazard points, failing to provide guardrails, fences or covers to prevent falling into excavation depths of more than 6 feet and failing to place excavated materials at least 2 feet from the trench's edge. A serious violation is one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
The Fishel Co. has 15 working days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with the OSHA Houston South area director, or contest the citations and penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health and Review Commission.
Employers and employees with questions regarding workplace safety and health standards can call the OSHA Houston South area office at (281) 286-0583. OSHA's toll-free hotline number may be used to report workplace accidents, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers at 1-800-321-6742.
OSHA is dedicated to assuring workers safety and health. Safety and health add value to business, the workplace and life. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.
U.S. Labor Department news releases are accessible on the Internet at www.dol.gov.
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