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Region 4 News Release: 13-1089-ATL (125)
June 18, 2013
Contact: Michael D'Aquino   Lindsay Williams
Phone: 404-562-2076   404-562-2078
Email: d'aquino.michael@dol.gov   williams.lindsay.l@dol.gov

US Labor Department's OSHA cites Florida underground utility company for
willful, serious trenching violations; proposes more than $106,000 in penalties

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Gulf Coast Utility Contractors LLC with two willful and two serious safety violations with proposed penalties totaling $106,400 for exposing workers to a cave-in and other hazards while they were installing underground utilities at a job site in Panama City Beach.

One OSHA inspection was initiated in December 2012 after its inspectors observed hazards while passing the work site. Another inspection began in February 2013 after additional trenching hazards were found at the same project in a different area. These inspections were part of the agency's national emphasis program on trenching. Two willful violations, with $98,000 in proposed penalties, involve failing to provide workers with protection against cave-in hazards while working in a trench greater than 5 feet in depth. 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.

Two serious violations, with penalties totaling $8,400, were cited because the employer failed to provide hard hats or a ladder to workers entering and exiting the excavation, thus exposing them to struck-by and fall hazards. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

"This employer is aware of OSHA's standards regarding excavation and trenching, but put its employees' lives at risk, causing them to work in an unprotected trench," said Jeff Romeo, acting director of OSHA's Jacksonville Area Office. "Risking the safety of workers is an irresponsible business decision."

OSHA standards mandate that all excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against collapse. Detailed information on trenching and excavation hazards is available on OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/trenchingexcavation/index.html.

The citations can be viewed at http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/GulfCoastUtility_796981_906937_06172013.pdf*

Gulf Coast Utility Contractors has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request a conference with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The site was inspected by OSHA's Jacksonville area office, telephone 904-232-2895. 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.

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U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at http://www.dol.gov. The information above is available in large print, Braille or CD from the COAST office upon request by calling 216-893-7828 or TTY 216-893-7755.


* Accessibility Assistance: Contact OSHA's Office of Communications at 202-693-1999 for assistance accessing PDF materials.


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