OSHA Cites Westwind Contracting for Serious Excavation-Safety Violations at Florida Work Site

A $70,000 willful citation was issued for failing to provide a safe working environment for employees working in a 7-to-9-ft.-deep trench

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Westwind Contracting Inc., of Pembroke Park, FL, was cited by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration for one willful and two serious violations for exposing workers to safety hazards while installing concrete catch basins for storm water along State Road 84 in Davie, FL. OSHA began the inspection in January 2014 as part of the agency's National Emphasis Program on Trenching and Excavation. Proposed penalties total $76,300.

"Workers at this site were needlessly exposed to safety hazards on multiple occasions," said Condell Eastmond, OSHA's area director in Fort Lauderdale. "If the excavation wall collapsed, it would have crushed the unprotected trench workers in seconds."

The $70,000 willful citation was issued to the employer for failing to provide a safe working environment for employees working in a 7-to-9-ft.-deep trench. 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.

Two serious violations, with $6,300 in penalties, were cited because the employer failed to provide a safe means to enter and exit the excavation site and failed to ensure that the employees who worked at the bottom of the trench were protected from falling material or equipment. 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 require that all trenches and excavation sites 5 ft. or deeper be protected against sidewall collapses. Protection may be provided through shoring of trench walls, sloping of the soil at a shallow angle or by using a protective trench box.

Westwind Contracting has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, request a conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety & 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 Fort Lauderdale Area Office at 954-424-0242.

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.