Occupational Safety & Health Administration

OSHA Proposes $66,000 in Penalties for Atlanta Utility Contractor's Unsafe Trenching

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Site Engineering Inc. for one willful and two serious safety violations after failing to remove workers from a trench that had an inadequate protective system and therefore exposed them to the hazard of a possible cave-in. Proposed penalties total $65,800.

OSHA conducted a planned inspection of the company's work site at 5670 Fulton Industrial Blvd. in Atlanta in February as part of the agency's national emphasis program to reduce injuries at trenching and excavation construction sites.

The willful violation specifically refers to leaving the cave-in hazard in the inadequately protected trench. Although the company had a competent person on-site who should have recognized this hazard, there was no evidence that any action was taken to protect the workers. A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health. The citation carries a $56,000 penalty.

The serious violations involve failing to train workers to recognize trenching and excavation hazards, and provide head protection for an employee working inside a 17-foot-deep trench who was exposed to "struck-by" hazards from an excavator bucket and falling objects overhead. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known. The citations carry penalties of $9,800.

"Ignoring obvious safety hazards exposes workers to serious injury or death, and employers have a duty to be sure that workers have been adequately trained and given the tools needed to work safely," said Andre Richards, director of OSHA's Atlanta-West Area Office.

Additional information on the dangers associated with trenching and excavation is available at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/construction/trenching/mainpage.html.

Site Engineering is based in Atlanta and specializes in utility construction projects. The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's Atlanta-West office at 678-903-7301.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.

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