Less than three weeks after being cited for exposing workers to unsafe trenches, federal investigators saw a Chicago plumbing contractor exposing the same four-man crew to trenching hazards as they worked on sewer and water utilities at two locations in Oak Park on consecutive days in March 2016.
OSHA's inspectors found:
- On March 28, 2016, a four-man crew on a job site in the 1036 Washington Blvd. in Oak Park was working in a five and one-half foot-deep trench without cave-in protection and a means to enter and exit the trench. In addition, inspectors found workers not wearing hard hats.
- On March 29, 2016, inspectors found the same crew working in a six-and-one-half-foot deep trench at 1035 Randolph St. in Oak Park without cave-in protection and a means to enter and exit the trench. After the investigator left the site, employees were seen re-entering the unprotected trench. As the investigator approached the trench the second time, the employees scrambled out of the trench. Shortly after this, a large section of the trench wall collapsed into the area of the trench where the employees were working.
- On March 10, 2016, OSHA inspectors observed a crew installing water lines in a trench about six-feet deep at 1632 N. Western Ave., in Chicago, without cave-in protection. OSHA issued penalties of $69,300 to the company on April 25, 2016, for one willful and one repeated safety violation following its inspection.
OSHA proposed penalties of $275,728 and issued one willful, three repeat and one serious safety citations to the plumbing contractor for the violations found at the job sites. The SVEP program focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations. Under the program, the agency may inspect any of the employer's facilities or job sites if it has reasonable grounds to believe there are similar violations.
"After being told by an investigator to protect workers against trench cave-in hazards, Og Plumbing returned to work the next day and again exposed the same crew to the potential threat of being buried by thousands of pounds of soil and work in an unprotected trench," said Angeline Loftus, OSHA's area director for its Chicago North Office in Des Plaines. "Each year, dozens of workers die and hundreds suffer injuries when soil unexpectedly shifts and trench walls collapse burying them in mere seconds."
"Og Plumbing needs to evaluate its job site procedures immediately to ensure they use required protective systems. These can be the difference between life and death."
OSHA's trenching standards require protective systems on trenches deeper than 5 feet, and that soil and other materials remain at least two feet from the edge of trench.