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USDL: 97-298
FOR RELEASE: Immediate
CONTACT: Bill Wright (202) 219-8151
Wednesday, August 27, 1997

Community involvement makes impact in Pennsylvania

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) today issued citations with proposed penalties totaling $230,400 to an Alburtis, Pa., excavating contractor for subjecting workers to potential life-threatening conditions during installation of a sewer line. And, the local community can take credit for exposing the dangers.

OSHA cited the company, Atlantic Contracting, Inc., with a total of 11 alleged violations, five of which are alleged as willful, after complaints from local residents who had been observing the trenching operation in a section of Lehigh Township, Pa.

"Every American worker has the right to a safe and healthy workplace, and one of my top priorities is to make that right a reality," said Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman. "We cannot allow employers to continuously place their employees at risk of death or serious injury by ignoring good safety and health practices. OSHA has cited Atlantic Contracting for violations related to excavation hazards on three separate occasions. By repeatedly endangering its employees lives, Atlantic brought these penalties on itself."

Atlantic Contracting, Inc., an excavating contractor operating in central Pennsylvania, primarily performs utility excavation work. The company employs 80 people, 38 of whom were involved in this particular sewer line installation project. OSHA's inspection resulted from three reports of unsafe work practices received from local citizens last spring.

OSHA cited the company with five alleged willful violations with a proposed penalty of $201,000; three alleged serious violations with a penalty totaling $12,600; and two repeat violations totaling $16,800 in proposed penalties. Two contractors at the same project were also issued serious citations: M.F. Ronca & Sons, Bethlehem, Pa., $60,400; and Goodwin Tunneling of NJ, Inc., Brooklawn, N.J., $6,600.

"The investigation revealed that Atlantic Contracting had, indeed, allowed their employees to work in extremely hazardous conditions," said OSHA's acting assistant secretary Gregory R. Watchman. "We visited the work site on six different occasions in order to acquire proper abatement. The company chose not only to ignore the trenching and excavation standards, but our on-site assistance as well. There simply is no excuse for this blatant disregard for worker safety and flagrant indifference to the law, particularly when assistance is offered."

The willful citations include three instance-by-instance alleged violations involving three trenches that lacked cave-in protection. In addition, two willful citations were issued for improperly installed trench shields. The two repeat citations involve instance-by-instance violations for two improperly shored trenches, and the lack of support for underground installations. The serious citations include an employee working under a loaded backhoe and failure to use proper traffic control near the project.

The other-than-serious violation was issued for using shoring without engineering data to determine whether the cave-in protection would adequately support the load. No penalty was proposed.

"Though there has been an overall reduction in these types of cases," Watchman said, "we continue to be concerned because trenching remains one of the most hazardous operations in the construction industry." As a result, the agency conducts seminars and information sessions on trenching safety throughout the country. OSHA also sponsors a free consultation program through state agencies or universities that can help construction companies find the best ways to meet OSHA trenching requirements.

"Excavations," a 24-page guide to the OSHA trenching standard, is available for $1.25 (order #029-016-00167-1) from the Government Printing Office by calling (202) 512-1800 or fax (202) 512-2250. This booklet and additional materials are also available on the Internet at under "Technical Links," subcategory "Trenching and Excavation."

Atlantic Contracting, Inc., has 15 working days to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

# # #

(Editor's Note: See attached fact sheet for Summary of Citations and Proposed Penalties)

The news release text is on the Internet World Wide Web at under media releases. Information on this news release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request.
Voice phone: 202-219-8151.

Summary of Citations and Proposed Penalties
Atlantic Contracting, Inc.
Alburtis, Pennsylvania

    Alleged Willful Violations

  • Three instances of employees in unprotected trenches ($42,000 per instance) (total penalty -- $126,000)

  • Soil not excavated at top of trench shield (total penalty -- $33,000)

  • Improperly installed trench shield (total penalty -- $42,000)

Total proposed penalties for alleged willful violations -- $201,000 (Willful violations are those committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations).

    Alleged Serious Violations

  • Employee working under the load of a backhoe (total penalty -- $4,200)

  • Failure to properly use traffic control near trenching operations (total penalty -- $4,200)

  • Flagman not properly positioned (total penalty -- $4,200)

Total proposed penalties for alleged serious violations -- $12,600 (A serious violation is one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard).

    Alleged Repeat Violations

  • Two instances of improperly shored trenches ($8,400 each instance), grouped with

  • Unsupported underground installations during excavation work

Total proposed penalties for alleged repeat violations -- $16,800 (A repeat violation is one in which the employer has been cited previously for a substantially similar condition and the citation has become a final order).


Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents

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