Region 2 News Release: 11-1085-NEW/BOS 2011-262
July 22, 2011
Contact: Ted Fitzgerald
US Labor Department's OSHA cites Jordan, NY, contractor for cave-in
hazard at SUNY Brockport work site, proposes $147,000 in fines
Blue Heron Construction qualifies for inclusion in Severe Violator Enforcement Program
BUFFALO, N.Y. – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Blue Heron Construction for three alleged willful violations of excavation safety standards at a water line installation project on the campus of the State University of New York at Brockport. Proposed fines total $147,000.
During an inspection opened on March 31, OSHA found Blue Heron employees working in an unprotected excavation greater than 5 feet in depth. Additionally, the excavation lacked a ladder or other safe means of access, and piles of excavated material were situated less than 2 feet from the excavation's edge. A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.
"Workers in an unprotected excavation are only seconds away from a fatal or disabling cave-in that could bury them beneath tons of soil and debris before they have a chance to react," said Arthur Dube, OSHA's area director in Buffalo. "This employer knew the common-sense and legally required safeguards necessary to prevent this life-threatening hazard, yet did not implement them at this work site."
This significant enforcement action qualifies Blue Heron Construction for placement in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. Initiated in 2010, the program focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations. For more information on the program, visit http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=DIRECTIVES&p_id=4503.
OSHA standards require that all excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against collapse. Protection can be provided through shoring, sloping the soil at a shallow angle or use of a trench box. Detailed information on excavation hazards and safeguards is available online at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/trenchingexcavation/index.html.
"One means of preventing hazards such as these is for employers to establish an injury and illness prevention program in which they work continually with their employees to identify and eliminate hazardous conditions," said Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with the OSHA area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The inspection was conducted by OSHA's Buffalo Area Office; telephone 716-551-3053. To report workplace incidents, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, call the agency's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742).
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.
U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at http://www.dol.gov. The information above is available in large print, Braille, audio tape or disc from the COAST office upon request by calling 202-693-7828 or TTY 202-693-7755.