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Region 1 News Release: BOS 99-014
Wednesday, January 27, 1999
Contact: Ted Fitzgerald (USDOL) 617-565-2074

Over $51,000 in Penalties Proposed against C.B. Utility, Inc.


The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the U.S. Labor Department has cited C.B. Utility, Inc., a contractor based in Bristol, Rhode Island, for alleged Willful, Serious and Repeat violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act at a West Haven, Connecticut, jobsite and has proposed cash penalties against the company totaling $51,200.

According to Clifford S. Weston, OSHA area director in Bridgeport, the alleged violations were discovered during a spot inspection initiated November 24, 1998, at an excavation located at the corner of First Avenue and Elm Street in West Haven and chiefly concern inadequate cave-in protection for employees working in a six-foot-deep trench. C.B. Utility was installing and capping gas mains and had five employees working onsite at the time of the inspection.

"The inspection found employees working in a trench six to six-and-one-half feet in depth that lacked protection against a collapse of its sidewalls onto those workers," said Weston. "The walls of a trench can collapse suddenly and with great force, stunning and burying workers beneath tons of earth before they have a chance to react or escape."

"That's why OSHA standards require that some form of effective collapse protection, such as protective shoring or sloping of the soil at a shallow angle, be in place and in use before workers enter an excavation,@ he said. AIn this case, the collapse hazard was aggravated by the placement of excavated soil at the edge of the trench rather than its being set back at least two feet as required. The fact that no collapse occurred in no way relieves an employer of the responsibility of providing required worker safeguards."

The company was also cited for two other items: allowing an employee to ride on the side of a backhoe while straddling two pipes and failing to equip an electrical generator with a ground fault circuit interrupter.

Weston added that the size of the fines proposed in this case reflect both the employer's prior history of trenching violations -- the company has been cited under OSHA's trenching safety standards at four worksites in Rhode Island and Connecticut in the past year -- and the classification of the cave-in protection citation as willful, the most severe category of OSHA citation. OSHA issues willful citations only when it believes, based on the information gathered in its inspection, that the employer knew what safeguards were required to protect workers yet apparently chose to ignore them.

Weston added that excavation safety is a national emphasis program for OSHA. Under that program, OSHA inspectors who encounter a trench in the course of their duties will stop and examine it. If there are no problems, the inspector will move on. If potentially hazardous conditions are observed, the inspector will open an inspection immediately and appropriate citations and fines will result if violations are found.

"If an employer is thinking of foregoing required collapse protection to save time or money, think again, said Weston. The next car driving by may just contain an OSHA inspector and that shortcut may prove to be expensive indeed."

Specifically, the citations and proposed penalties encompass the following:

  • One alleged Willful violation, with a proposed penalty of $44,000, for:

    • employees exposed to cave-in hazards while working in a six to six-and-one-half foot deep trench that lacked a shoring system or other equivalent form of collapse protection.

  • Two alleged Serious violations, with $4,000 in proposed penalties, for:

    • soil banked on the side of the trench was not set back at least two feet from the edge of the trench;

    • failure to provide a place of employment free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm in that an employee was improperly riding the side of a backhoe while straddling two sections of pipe.

      [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.]

  • One alleged Repeat violation, with a proposed penalty of $3,200, for:

    • failing to provide a ground-fault circuit interrupter for a portable electrical generator.
      (The company had previously been cited for a substantially similar violation in a citation issued May 15, 1998, following a previous inspection at a West Haven worksite).

      [Repeat citations are issued when OSHA has previously cited an employer for a violation and a subsequent inspection identifies a substantially similar hazard.]

Weston urged Connecticut employers and employees with questions regarding workplace safety and health standards to contact the OSHA area offices in Bridgeport or Hartford 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.

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.

Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents

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