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OSHA News Release – Region 4
U.S. Department of Labor
Region 4 News Release: USDOL: 99-86
Tuesday, May 11, 1999
PHONE : (205) 731-0504
OSHA FINES TUSCALOOSA CONSTRUCTION COMPANY $105,100 FOR TRENCH SAFETY VIOLATIONS
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration today cited Tuscaloosa-based Fair Contracting Company, Inc., and proposed penalties totaling $105,100 for trench safety violations at a residential area construction site.
OSHA inspectors found two employees working in a 16-foot-deep section of a trench with no protective system and no way to exit safely in case of emergency. The trench was not shored or sloped and the employees were not using available trench shields. In addition, the job foreman, a competent person in trench safety, failed to remove the employees from the hazardous excavation. These violations resulted in two willful citations with penalties totaling $100,000.
The company was cited and fined an additional $5,100 for two serious violations of trenching standards. One violation involved failure to provide adequate protection from loose rock placed at the top edge of the trench directly above where the employees were working. The second was issued because an excavator was straddling the sides of the trench where it could have fallen in on the workers below. The excavator's placement also required the workers to crawl up the bank and through an 18" opening beneath the tractor in order to exit the trench.
"OSHA encourages companies to be proactive in their approach to safety and health," said John Hall, OSHA's Birmingham area director. "If this company had an effective safety and health program in place, the hazards we found during our inspection most likely could have been eliminated."
Trenching accidents are among the leading causes of injury in the southeast and many result in fatalities. According to Hall, there have been 18 trench-related accidents in the southeast and 83 nationally since July 1995.
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.
Fair Contracting Company employs approximately 100 workers, nine of whom were on the Tuscaloosa job site. The underground utility contractor 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 area office located at Vestavia Village, 2047 Canyon Rd., Birmingham, Ala. 35216-1981; telephone: (205) 731-0504.
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