OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents|
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the U.S. Labor Department has cited George Cairns & Sons, Inc,, a Methuen, Massachusetts, contractor, for One alleged Willful violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act for failure to provide cave-in protection for employees working in a ten foot deep trench at the Manchester, New Hampshire, airport. OSHA has proposed a fine of $42,000.
According to David May, OSHA area director for New Hampshire, the alleged violations were discovered during an inspection initiated July 28, 1999, when an OSHA inspector observed two employees working in a trench which lacked any safeguards against a potentially fatal cave-in of its sidewalls. At the time of the inspection, the workers were preparing to cut a hole in the base of a concrete storm drain into which a new drainpipe would be installed.
"The walls of an excavation can collapse suddenly and with great force, stunning and burying workers beneath tons of soil before they have a chance to react or escape," said May. "That's why cave-in protection is necessary, especially in an excavation this deep. A variety of safeguards, ranging from sloping the soil at a shallow angle to the placement of a protective trench box in the excavation, are available to employers but none were used in this instance."
May explained that the considerable size of the fine proposed in this case reflects the citation's classification as willful. OSHA issues willful citations only when it believes based on its inspection that an employer knew what safeguards were required to protect workers but apparently elected not to provide them. He also noted that OSHA has previously cited this contractor for willful trenching violations in 1994, at a Methuen, Mass., worksite and in 1995, at a Holyoke, Mass., worksite.
"It's fortunate that no cave-in occurred but that in no way relieves an employer of the responsibility to provide required protection for workers," he said. "And an employer should not wait for an OSHA inspection and the possibility of fines to do so."
May urged Granite State employers and employees with questions regarding workplace safety and health standards to contact the OSHA area office in Concord and added that OSHA's toll-free, nationwide hotline --1-800-321-OSHA (1-800-321-6742)-- may be used to report workplace accidents or fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, especially if they occur outside of normal business hours.
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.
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 its citations and proposed penalties to either elect to comply, 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.
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