OSHA has cited Wiregrass Construction Co. Inc. in Ariton, Ala., with safety violations for exposing workers to excavation hazards while installing a storm water sewer junction box, according to an agency press release. Penalties total $287,500.

The company is being cited with four willful violations carrying a proposed penalty of $280,000 for exposing workers to cave-in hazards by not having a protective system during excavation. The violations also include failing to keep excavated and other materials or equipment at least 2 feet from the edge of the excavation, and the designated competent person failed to remove the workers from hazardous working conditions. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to employee safety and health.

Wiregrass is also being cited with two serious violations carrying $7,500 in proposed penalties. The deficiencies include failing to instruct workers about the risks associated with working inside an excavation and not ensuring workers wear hard hats while exposed to overhead hazards. A serious citation 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.

"An unprotected excavation with water entering from below can quickly turn into a death trap," said Kurt Petermeyer, director of OSHA's Mobile Area Office. "Despite warnings of these hazards, this employer chose to risk the lives of workers in an effort to avoid additional expenses."
OSHA standards require that all trenches and excavations 5 feet or deeper must be protected against collapse. Detailed information about excavation hazards and safeguards is available online at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/trenchingexcavation/index.html.