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CHARLESTON EMPLOYER CITED FOR SAFETY AND HEALTH VIOLATIONS AFTER FATAL TRENCH COLLAPSE
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Valley Development of West Virginia, Inc., Charleston, W.Va., for alleged violations of safety and health standards and proposed $39,200 in penalties following a fatal trench collapse in Sept. 1999. The company was installing a sewage system in Washington, W.Va., when the accident occurred.
According to Stanley H. Elliott, area director of the Charleston OSHA office, the company was cited for one willful violation, with a proposed penalty of $28,000, for not inspecting the trench or surrounding areas to ensure that employees were not exposed to hazards of a cave-in.
"This employer was well aware of the OSHA requirements for inspections of trenches by a competent person and put an untrained employee in charge of the work," said Elliott.
The serious violations, with a proposed penalty of $11,200, concern the lack of employee protection in a trench; not instructing employees on how to recognize hazards while working in trenches; piling excavated material too close to the edge of a trench; employees were not provided with a safe means of exit from an 8 foot deep trench. The other-than-serious violation was for lack of a lockout program to ensure that equipment being serviced would not inadvertently start up and present a hazard to the employees.
OSHA has implemented a regional public awareness program called "Dig Trenches, Not Graves" which alerts employers and employees alike to the hazards of working in and around trenches.
Willful violations are those committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the OSH act. A serious violations 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.
The company has 15 working days to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
The investigation was conducted by the Charleston OSHA office, Suite 407, 405 Capitol St., Charleston, W.Va. 25301, telephone (304) 347-5937.
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