The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Tekton Construction Co. for two willful and two serious safety violations after a worker died in a trench collapse. Clyde Nettles Jr. was in an unprotected trench reconnecting drainpipes at Fort Bragg, N.C., on July 24, 2014, when, without warning, the walls collapsed around him and another worker. The other worker was able to escape uninjured, but 22-year-old Nettles was not. The tragedy occurred while Tekton workers were digging trenches and installing drainpipes at an ammunition supply point.
Willful citations were issued to Tekton for not providing cave-in protection to employees working in a trench and not providing safe means to enter and exit the trench. OSHA requires that for every 25 feet of length of a trench, a safe exit must be installed. In this case, three of the trenches were longer than 62 feet without exits installed. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirement, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.
OSHA also requires that all trenches and excavation sites 5 feet 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. OSHA has created a National Emphasis Program on Trenching and Excavation.
Tekton also received serious citations for not providing protective hard hats to employees inside trenches and for failure to train workers to identify and avoid hazardous working conditions. 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 proposes that Tekton be placed in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program for demonstrating indifference to its OSH Act obligations to provide a safe and healthful workplace for employees.
Current citations can be viewed at https://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/TektonConstructionCo_986804.pdf.
Tekton faces $123,200 in proposed penalties. The company, which specializes in heavy equipment operation, excavating and construction, 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 and Health Review Commission.