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Region 1 News Release: USDL: BOS 99-043
Thurs., March 18, 1999
Contact: Ted Fitzgerald
PHONE :(617) 565-2074
OSHA PROPOSES NEARLY $330,000 IN PENALTIES AGAINST CONTRACTOR ON NORTHERN NEW HAMPSHIRE PIPELINE PROJECT FOR ALLEGED WILLFUL AND SERIOUS SAFETY VIOLATIONS
Following safety inspections at pipeline installation sites in seven communities in Coos County, New Hampshire, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the U.S. Labor Department has cited a Texas-based pipelaying contractor on the northern New Hampshire portion of a multi-state natural gas pipeline for alleged Willful and Serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
OSHA has proposed $329,000 in fines against H.C. Price Co, Inc., of Dallas, Texas, for alleged hazards posed to its workers by inadequately guarded trenches, improper operation and maintenance of pipelaying cranes and allowing its employees to ride unauthorized machinery.
According to David May, OSHA area director for New Hampshire, the alleged violations were discovered during OSHA inspections conducted between September and December 1998, at excavation worksites in Milan, Stark, Columbia, Stewartstown, Stratford, Colebrook and Groveton, New Hampshire. Some of the inspections were spot checks conducted under OSHA's trenching safety initiative, others were prompted by complaints or calls from the general public alleging unsafe working conditions, and one inspection was in response to an October 12, 1998, fatality at a worksite in Stark.
"The common hazard found at most of these worksites was the lack of adequate cave-in protection for employees working in trenches five feet or more in depth," said May. "OSHA standards require that effective collapse protection be in place and in use before employees enter a trench. The absence of such protection leaves workers exposed to being struck by and buried beneath tons of soil before they have a chance to react or escape."
May explained that the considerable size of the fines proposed against H.C. Price Co., reflects the classification of its trenching citations as willful, the most severe category of OSHA violation. OSHA issues such citations only when it believes, based on its inspection, that the employer knew what safeguards were required to protect workers yet apparently elected not to provide them.
"Twenty-five American workers died in trenching-related cave-ins last year. Those tragedies prove just how dangerous trenching violations can be," said Charles M. Jeffress, the assistant U.S. secretary of labor who heads OSHA. "OSHA will not sit idle while employers ignore safe trenching practices. The severity of this fine reflects the seriousness of Price's willful disregard of the safety of its employees."
Regarding the October 12 accident, in which a Price employee was killed when the boom of a pipelaying crane that was pulling the equipment sled on which he was riding fell and struck him, OSHA cited Price for two alleged Serious violations for making unauthorized modifications to the pipelayer and for allowing employees to ride the sled.
A total of $329,000 in penalties is proposed against H.C. Price Co., Inc., for:
Five alleged Willful violations, with $290,000 in proposed fines, for:
Thirteen alleged Serious violations, with $39,000 in proposed penalties, for:
five instances of failing to adequately guard trenches against possible collapse.
failure to provide a place of employment free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm in that employees were, on different occasions, permitted to ride on metal equipment sleds, on the superstructure of an excavator and in an excavator bucket; an employee riding a four-wheel vehicle did not wear required head protection;
water accumulation hazard in a trench; an inadequately guarded trench; a trench lacked a ladder or other means of exit every 25 feet as required; excavated spoils were placed too close to the edge of two excavations;
unauthorized modifications were made to a pipelaying crane; a custom-made lifting device had not been load-tested or had its load lifting capacity marked; damaged crane slings were in use; a sling was not marked with its load rating; a forklift truck was not inspected for defects.
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.
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.
Each company has 15 working days from receipt of its 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.
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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