A Cherry Hill Construction Co. employee working in an excavation was in danger from above and below, according to an OSHA inspection which produced repeat and serious citations for the North Branford contractor.

According to an agency press release, the employee was working in an excavation deeper than 5 feet that lacked proper protection against a collapse of its sidewalls as well as a ladder or other safe means of exit. He was also in danger of being struck by the bucket of an excavator that was placing gravel in the excavation.

"The unprotected walls of an excavation can collapse in seconds, stunning and crushing workers beneath tons of soil and debris before they have a chance to react or escape," said Robert Kowalski, OSHA's area director in Bridgeport. "Employers must never allow an employee to face such a dangerous situation. Before a worker enters, each excavation must be effectively protected."

The newest round of citations carry a proposed $53,460 in fines. $48,510 of that figure comes from repeat citations. OSHA cited the company in 2008 and 2009 for excavation hazards at worksites in North Branford and Orange, Conn., respectively, and in 2008 for lacking safe exit access from an excavation at a North Branford worksite.

The serious citation – which carries a $4,950 fine – issued to the company is for failing to prohibit an employee from working under and within the swing radius of the excavator bucket. OSHA issues a serious citation 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.