OSHA has proposed fines totaling $117,740 against Newport-based Raymond J. Cawley Contracting Inc. for allowing cave-in and other hazards while workers were excavating in Middletown to replace a sewer line.

An OSHA inspection found two workers in an 8-foot-deep trench improperly shored or sloped to prevent sidewalls from caving in. Excavated materials were placed at the edge of the trench, which also lacked a sufficiently tall ladder that workers could use to exit swiftly and safely. Additionally, the workers were not wearing protective helmets, which exposed them to being struck by an operating backhoe's bucket and the material falling out of it. Finally, the employer failed to adequately train workers to recognize hazards and to have the trench inspected by someone with the authority to correct any hazards found.

"The sizable fines proposed in this case reflect not just the severity of the hazards but also their recurrence and the employer's neglect," said Patrick Griffin, OSHA's area director for Rhode Island. "Trenches can collapse and kill people in seconds. With the onset of warmer weather, I urge contractors in Rhode Island to review their safety programs, ensure that workers are adequately trained and prevent them from entering a trench missing the proper safeguards."

As a result of OSHA's inspection, citations have been issued for a willful violation – the unguarded trench – carrying a $70,000 fine; two repeat citations, with $18,480 in fines, for a ladder of inadequate length and a lack of protective helmets; and six serious citations, with $29,260 in fines, for remaining items. The citations can be viewed at www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/Cawley314920224_FINAL.pdf*.

OSHA standards require that trenches or excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against collapse. Information on trenching and excavation hazards is available at www.osha.gov/SLTC/trenchingexcavation/index.html.