The Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Hurtado Construction Co. in Richmond, Texas, for three repeat violations following an inspection that found employees installing sewer lines in a 10-ft.-deep trench that lacked required cave-in protection. Proposed penalties total $46,200.
OSHA's Houston South Area Office initiated a safety inspection June 21 at a work site in the Aliana residential subdivision of Richmond as a follow-up to a previous inspection. Investigators cited the employer for failing to provide cave-in protection such as an engineered shoring system or a trench box, to ensure that a competent person capable of overseeing the work is present, and to ensure that piles of materials are kept away from the edge of the trench to prevent workers from being struck by falling objects.
A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. Similar violations were cited at a work site in the Del Webb residential subdivision of Richmond in September 2010.
"An unguarded trench can collapse and bury workers beneath tons of soil and debris before they have a chance to react or escape," said Mark Briggs, director of OSHA's Houston South office. "Hurtado Construction is aware of OSHA's safety standards regarding excavation and trenching, but continues to put its employees' lives at risk by allowing them to work in unprotected trenches."
OSHA's standards require that trenches or excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against collapse. Information on trenching and excavation hazards is available at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/trenchingexcavation/index.html.
Hurtado Construction, which employs about 80 workers, has 15 business days from receipt of its citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's Houston South 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), the agency's Houston South office at 281-286-0583 or its Houston North office at 281-591-2438.
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.