OSHA trench safety warning posterOSHA has cited Accadia Site Contracting Inc. for alleged willful and serious excavation safety violations found at a water main site at Lewiston Road and McKinley Avenue in Niagara Falls. The Depew, NY-based contractor faces a total of $84,000 in proposed fines after an inspection by OSHA's Buffalo Area Office.

On March 7, OSHA found workers in a 7-foot deep vertical-walled excavation that lacked protection to prevent wall cave-ins, and a ladder every 25 feet to facilitate a swift and safe exit from the excavation. Moreover, 8 inches of water accumulated in the excavation's bottom, increasing the likelihood of a collapse.

"An unprotected excavation can turn into a grave in seconds, crushing and burying workers beneath tons of soil before they have an opportunity to react or escape," said Arthur Dube, OSHA's area director in Buffalo. "These workers were fortunate—not lucky, because workplace safety must never be dependent on luck—that they were not injured or killed."

OSHA issued a willful citation, with a fine of $70,000, for the unprotected excavation. Two serious citations, with $14,000 in fines, were issued for the water and ladder hazards.

OSHA is also calling upon employers across western New York to take effective action to ensure that excavations are guarded against collapse and their employees are protected against death and serious injury.

"The coming of warmer weather and the accompanying thaw of the soil bring with them an increase in excavation work. Unfortunately, it also brings an increase in cave-in hazards and unsafe work practices," said Dube. "Before any employee enters an excavation to perform work, the employer must ensure that the excavation is properly safeguarded against collapse, the employees are trained to recognize and avoid cave-in hazards and all required equipment is present and properly maintained."

Information on excavation hazards and safeguards is available at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/trenchingexcavation/index.html.