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Trench safety: OSHA continues enforcement surge (4/23)

"OSHA is putting a special emphasis on reducing the number of trenching and excavation injuries through increased inspections of construction sites," said Kurt Petermeyer, OSHA's area director in Mobile, Ala., in an agency press release.

He was referring to OSHA’s proposed penalty of one willful and four serious safety violations against B&H Contracting Inc. following an inspection at the company's jobsite in Dothan, Ala. The case is the latest in a nationwide surge of trenching enforcement cases that commenced this spring.

The agency is proposing $53,400 in penalties, including a $42,000 penalty for willfully allowing employees to work unprotected in a 12-foot-deep trench being dug for a new concrete sewer line. The agency defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.

Penalties of $11,400 are being proposed against the Florala, Ala., company for serious violations that include allowing employees to work in the trench without a safe means of access and egress, allowing spoil piles and equipment within two feet of the trench face, not removing employees from the trench where there was evidence that a hazard existed and allowing employees to work in a trench while a concrete pipe was hoisted over their heads by an excavator. A serious violation is issued 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.

"In this situation, rather than incorporating safety into the company's normal routine, the onsite supervisor chose to ignore OSHA standards and endanger his employees' lives just to save a little time," said OSHA’s Petermeyer.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with the OSHA area director in Mobile or contest the citations and the proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The site was inspected by staff from OSHA's Mobile Office, 1141 Montlimar Drive, Suite 1006, Mobile, AL 36609; telephone 251-441-6131.

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