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Over $34,000 in Penalties Proposed against Superior Excavating
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the U.S. Labor Department has cited Superior Excavating, Inc., a Hooksett, New Hampshire, contractor, for alleged Willful and Serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act at a Concord, N.H., excavation worksite and has proposed penalties totaling $34,500.
According to David May, OSHA area director for New Hampshire, the alleged violations were discovered during an inspection conducted April 7, 1999, at a water main installation site located at the intersection of Centre and Washington Streets in Concord. An OSHA inspector who was passing by the worksite on that day observed employees working in an apparently unprotected excavation and initiated an inspection on the spot. These citations and proposed fines are the result.
"The inspection found two employees working in a six-and-a-half foot deep excavation that was not protected against a collapse of its sidewalls onto those workers," said May. "Protection could have been provided by shoring up the sidewalls, sloping the soil at a shallow angle or other equivalent means, yet none of those safeguards were utilized."
May explained that an effective form of collapse protection must be in place and in use before employees enter an excavation to perform their duties since the walls of a trench can collapse suddenly and with great force, stunning and burying workers beneath tons of soil and debris before they have a chance to react or escape.
"While it's fortunate that no collapse occurred prior to this inspection, that relative good fortune in no way relieves an employer of the responsibility of adhering to basic, commonsense and legally required worker protections," he said.
May also noted that the size of the fine proposed in this case reflects OSHA's classification of the citation 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 yet apparently elected not to supply them.
Specifically, the citations and proposed penalties encompass:
One alleged Willful violation, with a proposed penalty of $33,000, for:
two employees working in an excavation that was not adequately protected against cave-in with sloping, shoring or some other equivalent means of protection.
One alleged Serious violation, with a proposed penalty of $1,500, for:
a ladder located outside of a trench box, thus exposing employees to possible cave-in hazards while entering and exiting an excavation.
May urged Granite State employers and employees with questions regarding workplace safety and health standards to contact the OSHA area office in Concord at 603-225-1629 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.
A serious violation 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.
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 the citations and proposed penalties to either elect to comply with them, 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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