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OSHA News Release – Region 4
U.S. Department of Labor
Region 4 News Release: USDL: 99-27
Thursday, February 25, 1999
Contact: Dan Fuqua Lorette Dempsey
PHONE :404/562-2078 404/562-2076
CONSTRUCTION COMPANY FINED $96,400 FOLLOWING FATAL CAVE-IN AT OLIVE BRANCH, MISS., WORK SITE
OSHA Official Urges Contractors To "Dig Trenches, Not Graves!"
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) today cited Freeland and Lemm Construction Company, Inc., and proposed penalties totaling $96,400 for safety violations at a job site in Olive Branch, Mississippi. The citations and penalties followed an inspection of a trench collapse that killed one worker.
The victim had been installing sewer line for the Cordova, Tennessee-based company in an excavation ranging in depth from seven to 10 feet. The trench walls were unsloped and, although trench boxes were available at the job site, none were in use at the time of the accident.
"Working in trenches is dangerous, even when the best precautions are taken," said Clyde Payne, OSHA's Jackson area director. "In this case, company officials knowingly put employees in harm's way by callous disregard for well-recognized safety practices. Employees should be digging trenches, not their own graves."
Trenching accidents are among the leading causes of injury in the southeast and many result in fatalities. According to Payne, there have been 18 trench-related accidents in the southeast and 83 nationally since July 1995 since July 1995.
OSHA inspectors found that the employer failed to provide cave-in protection and placed excavated material within two feet of the trench. These two willful violations resulted in proposed penalties of $88,000.
The remaining $8,400 fine was proposed for two serious citations for having only one means of exit from a 40-foot long trench and for not removing employees from a hazardous area.
"There is no excuse for Freeland and Lemm's failure to follow trenching guidelines. The penalties proposed in this case reflect the willful nature of the violations. This company had been cited by the Tennessee Department of Labor on June 14, 1993 and again on March 30, 1998 for similar trenching violations," said Payne.
The OSHA area director also commented on the company's failure to enforce its own safety program. "This contractor was aware of the highly-hazardous nature of trench work; knew that this particular trench was unsafe, and had a program in place to address the hazards. Yet no action was taken to protect the workers whose lives were at risk."
OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the OSH Act and regulations.
A serious violation is one in which there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and that the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.
The pipeline construction company has 15 working days to contest OSHA's citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Inspection of the work site was conducted by OSHA's Jackson area office located at 3780 I-55 North, Suite 210, Jackson, Miss. 39211-6323; telephone: (601) 965-4606.
This information will be made available to sensory-impaired individuals upon request. Telecommunications Device for the Deaf (TDD). Telephone: (800) 927-9273.
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