OSHA has cited Antorino Sewer & Drain, an Islandia, N.Y., contractor, for seven alleged serious violations of workplace safety standards following a Dec. 8, 2009, incident in which a worker became trapped in a 16-foot hole while installing a cesspool at an East Hills, N.Y., residential worksite, according to an agency press release. The contractor faces a total of $11,700 in proposed fines.

The citations were issued after OSHA's investigation found that the excavation lacked cave-in protection, did not have a ladder or other safe means of exit, had excavated material stored at its edge and had not been inspected by a competent person with knowledge and authority to identify and correct such hazards. In addition, the employee lacked a protective helmet and had accessed the excavation by riding in the bucket of a backhoe. OSHA issues serious citations when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from hazards about which the employer knew or should have known.

"Although no worker was seriously injured in this particular instance, the possibility of death or severe injury was real and present," said Anthony Ciuffo, OSHA's Long Island area director. "An unprotected excavation can become a grave in seconds and nearly did so here. This incident is a stark example of how dangerous it can be inside an excavation that lacks proper sloping or shoring, especially in the low cohesive and sandy soil we have here on Long Island."

"Warmer weather will bring an increase in excavation work and an increase in excavation hazards if employers fail to follow basic, common sense and legally required safeguards," said Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York. "I urge all employers conducting excavation work to assign a trained and competent person to examine each excavation and ensure it adheres to OSHA standards before they have workers enter them."

Antorino Sewer and Drain has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with the OSHA area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The inspections were conducted by OSHA's Long Island Area Office in Westbury; telephone 516-334-3344.