OSHA Cites Western Municipal Construction for Trench Cave-In Risk

Proposes to fine MT contractor $74,000 for willful and serious violations

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BILLINGS, MT (October 24, 2011) – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Western Municipal Construction Inc. in Billings with one willful and five serious violations for exposing workers to possible trench cave-ins on work sites in Billings and Great Falls. Proposed fines total $73,920.

"A trench can quickly turn into a grave when employers fail to address hazards that could lead to a collapse," said Christine A. Webb, OSHA's area director in Billings. "It is the employer's responsibility to ensure a safe work environment."

The willful violation was cited for the Billings work site, where the company failed to provide cave-in protection for its workers. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to employee safety and health.

Additionally, three serious violations involve exposing workers to being struck by a 12-inch water line that was lowered into the trench from above, failing to prevent excavated materials from falling back into the trench and failing to provide workers with a safe means of egress from the trench. 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 second inspection, based on a referral about hazards at the Great Falls work site, resulted in citations for two serious violations. One involved the company's failure to ensure air monitoring was completed prior to entry of a permit-required confined space in which there was the potential for an oxygen-deficient atmosphere. The other citation was for failing to ensure a trench box was placed no more than 2 feet from the bottom of the trench.

OSHA standards mandate that all excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against collapse. Detailed information on trenching and excavation hazards is available on OSHA's website at www.osha.gov/SLTC/trenchingexcavation/index.html.

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 finding 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 Billings Area Office at 406-247-7494.

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.