OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents|
Two Cases at One Company Prove OSHA Saves Lives
Two cases with two different outcomes provide a sobering reminder of how OSHA saves lives. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration today proposed $371,400 in fines against Lisbon Contractors, Inc., of Danboro, Pa., for failing to protect its workers at two separate worksites. In one case, a worker died, and in another, OSHA inspectors removed workers from a potentially fatal situation.
Lisbon, a water and sewer installation company, was cited for violating worker safety requirements during trenching operations in Budd Lake, N.J., and Dublin, Pa. The New Jersey investigation followed the death of a Lisbon employee. The Pennsylvania investigation followed a complaint about a dangerous trench.
"These two cases prove OSHA saves lives. Lisbon knew how to protect workers in trenches against the dangers of cave-ins, but neglected to do so," said Secretary of Labor Robert B. Reich. "We will continue to provide strong enforcement against employers who risk the lives of their employees."
"Trenching accidents are a leading cause of construction fatalities," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Joseph A. Dear. "These violations could have led to more fatalities in this company and, therefore, merit stiff penalties."
Lisbon has had 26 previous inspections that resulted in a total of 25 citations, most of them for serious or repeat violations. There have been two fatalities, the most recent in March 1996, when an employee at Budd Lake was struck in the head by an improperly rigged steel plate being moved by digging equipment.
At the Dublin site, OSHA inspectors found employees working in an unprotected trench more than seven feet deep. The trench had vertical walls, was subjected to vehicular vibrations from a nearby road, was moist from recent rains and a leaking pipeline and contained evidence of previous partial cave-ins. The inspectors warned the employees that an imminent danger situation existed and they should leave the trench.
OSHA's Allentown office proposed penalties totaling $210,900 for alleged egregious (instance-by-instance) willful and serious violations at the Dublin site. The egregious willful citation involves two instances of permitting employees to work in unprotected trenches, with penalties proposed of $70,000 per instance. Another $70,000 penalty was proposed for failing to have a competent person take measures to remove the employees from the hazardous area. The serious citation, with a penalty of $900, was for failure to meet requirements for a portable ladder at the trench site.
OSHA's Parsippany office proposed penalties totaling $160,500 as a result of two inspections (in March following the fatality and June of this year) at the Lisbon worksites involving installation of sewer mains in Budd Lake. The Parsippany office had previously inspected Lisbon in Budd Lake in 1995 and issued the contractor citations for not providing a protective system in a trench.
The current citations at Budd Lake involve two alleged willful violations for failing to provide employees with proper protection in trenching operations, with proposed penalties of $70,000 for each violation; and an alleged repeat violation of the same requirement, $12,000.
Lisbon also was cited for an alleged serious violation for failing to properly control a load suspended by digging equipment, which resulted in the fatality, with a proposed penalty of $7,000 (the maximum permitted under law for a serious violation) and a serious violation for failing to provide a ladder in a trench, $1,500.
Willful violations are those committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the OSH Act and regulations.
A serious violation is defined as one in which there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.
A repeat violation is a violation of any standard, regulation, rule or order where, upon reinspection, a substantially similar violation is found. To be the basis of a repeat violation, the original citation must be final, and not under contest.
The company has 15 working days to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
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