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Trench box on hand but unused, exposing workers to cave-in hazards

July 24, 2012
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With a name like Ditchdiggers, you’d think a Ft. Pierce, Florida company would know how to protect workers who are, well, digging ditches.

While Ditchdiggers had protective equipment at its worksite in White City, Florida, OSHA inspectors checking the site as part of the agency’s National Emphasis Program on Trenching and Excavation found that it was not in use. Workers were installing a new section of a sewer drain at that location.

"Although the employer took a trench box to the work site, he chose not to use it and knowingly put employees' lives in danger by having them work in an unprotected trench," said Les Grove, OSHA's acting area director in Fort Lauderdale.

The company has been cited for two trenching violations, with proposed penalties of $51,590.

One willful violation is failing to have provided workers with protection against cave-in hazards while they were working in a trench more than 5 feet deep. One serious violation is failing to have provided a competent person on-site to monitor deteriorating trench conditions.

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.

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