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OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents
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DOL Logo OSHA News Release – Region 1

U.S. Department of Labor

Region 1 News Release:   BOS 2001-051
Wednesday, May 2, 2001
Contact: Ted Fitzgerald
Phone: (617) 565-2074

Need for trench safety stressed to Connecticut employers

BOSTON -- The U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Complete Construction Company, Inc., of Bridgeport, Connecticut, for alleged Willful and Serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act at a Shelton, Conn., water main installation site and has proposed $38,500 in penalties against the contractor.

The violations were discovered during an OSHA inspection initiated April 6, 2001, at trenches located on Cathy Drive near Great Oak Road in Shelton, said Clifford S. Weston, OSHA area director in Bridgeport.

"OSHA found that workers were exposed to cave-in and fall hazards while working in or accessing inadequately protected trenches up to 16 feet deep," he said. "In addition, the competent person onsite, the one with knowledge and authority to spot and correct hazards, neither addressed these hazards nor removed workers from exposure to them."

"Of particular concern is that, after documenting employees working in an unsafe trench on April 6, the OSHA inspector observed employees in another unsafe trench upon returning to the jobsite four days later," said Weston.

Noting the increase in construction and excavation work prompted by warmer weather, Weston reminded Connecticut employers to ensure that excavations 5 or more feet in depth be properly protected against collapse:

"Let's not kid ourselves, unprotected trenches can be lethal; their sidewalls can collapse suddenly and with great force, burying workers beneath tons of soil and debris before they have a chance to react or escape," he said. "Forty-four American workers died and scores of others were injured in trench cave-ins in 1999, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The best way to reduce the number of fatalities is to ensure that proper and effective collapse protection is in place and in use before employees enter an excavation."

Weston emphasized that excavation safety is a national emphasis program for OSHA. If OSHA compliance officers encounter an excavation in the course of their duties, they will stop and examine it. If hazardous conditions are spotted, an inspection can be opened on the spot with violations resulting in citations and fines.

He urged Connecticut employers and employees with questions regarding excavations or other workplace safety and health standards to contact the OSHA area offices in Bridgeport (203-579-5581) or Hartford (860-240-3152) and added that detailed information on excavation safety (including standards, publications, links and a compliance assistance tool) is available on OSHA's website www.osha.gov .

Specifically, Complete Construction Company, Inc. was cited for:

  • One alleged willful violation, with a proposed penalty of $35,000, for:
    -- on two separate days, employees were working in trenches 5 to 6 feet deep and 16 feet deep, respectively, that were unprotected or inadequately protected against cave-ins;

  • Two alleged Serious violations, with $3,500 in penalties proposed, for
    -- employees exposed to falls of up to 16 feet while accessing a trench;
    -- where hazardous conditions were visibly obvious, the competent person onsite did not take precautions and corrective actions or remove workers from exposure to the hazards.

A willful violation is defined by OSHA as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations. A serious violation is defined as 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.

OSHA is empowered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to issue standards and rules requiring employers to provide their employees with safe and healthful workplaces and jobsites, and to assure through workplace inspections that those standards are followed.

The company has 15 working days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to either elect to comply with them, to request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.


The information in this release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request. Voice phone: (617) 565-2072. TDD (Telecommunications Device for the Deaf) Message Referral Phone: 800-347-8029.

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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