PTS Contractors Inc., a Green Bay-based excavation contractor, has been cited by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for four repeat and two serious safety violations carrying proposed penalties of $70,070. OSHA began its inspection August 28 in response to a complaint alleging cave-in hazards at a jobsite in Wautoma, where workers were installing storm manholes and connecting utilities in a trench approximately 8 feet deep.
Four repeat violations were cited for failing to provide a means of safe access and egress during trenching and excavation work; keep excavated material away from the edge of the trench; not using protective systems, such as harnesses, properly; and have a competent person remove workers from a trench when identifying hazards. 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 in 2009 and 2010.
Additionally, two serious violations were cited for failing to provide a safe and acceptable means to locate underground utilities, which resulted in a gas line being struck and damaged by excavating equipment, and to protect workers from cave-in hazards. 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.
OSHA standards mandate that all excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against collapse. Detailed information on trenching and excavation hazards is available at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/trenchingexcavation/index.html.
As a result of the inspections, OSHA has placed PTS Contractors in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program. The program mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. The program focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations. OSHA has inspected the company five times since 2009, and 28 times since 1984. Fourteen inspections involved serious, willful and repeat violations of excavation hazards.
PTS Contractors has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and 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.