OSHA inspectors who were traveling to a scheduled inspection drove past the trench worksite of a different company and saw no trench box in use. They also noticed that traffic along the road caused loose debris to fall from the trench's wall.
The unexpected OSHA visit that resulted led to a Rhode Island company, D'Ambra Construction Company Inc., being cited for a willful violation of workplace safety standards involving workers at a Newport site who were found installing pipes in an unstable trench 6 to 7 feet deep. The company faces a $56,000 proposed fine following the May 21 inspection.
"The walls of a trench or an excavation can collapse suddenly and without warning, burying workers in soil and debris before they have a chance to react or escape," said Patrick Griffin, OSHA's Rhode Island area director. "The fact that no collapse occurred does not minimize the gravity of this hazard, nor does it relieve the company of its responsibility to ensure trenches and excavations are safe for workers to enter."
OSHA standards require that excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against collapse. For more information about excavation safeguards, visit www.osha.gov/SLTC/trenchingexcavation/index.html.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.