For the second time this year, OSHA has cited Pan-Oceanic Engineering Co. Inc. for failing to protect workers from trenching hazards at a job site at East 93rd Street and South Woodlawn Avenue in Chicago. OSHA cited the company for willful violations for again failing to protect workers from trench cave-ins while installing water and sewer lines in November 2013. Proposed penalties total $147,000.
"It is completely unacceptable that Pan-Oceanic Engineering continues to put workers at such great risk," said Kathy Webb, OSHA's area director in Calumet City. "Since 2003, this company has been cited multiple times for violations of trenching standards, which result in numerous fatalities and injuries every year. Pan-Oceanic Engineering's repeat violations demonstrate a lack of commitment to the safety of its workers.”
OSHA opened the inspection under the National Emphasis Program for trenching and excavation, which was implemented in the 1980s. The company was placed in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program in January 2014 when it was issued four violations for failing to adhere to trenching standards. The company has contested those violations, which carried penalties of $105,600.
OSHA issued two willful violations for failing to ensure workers were protected from cave-in hazards while working in a trench that exceeded 5 feet in depth and failing to support the street pavement above the trench from collapsing on the workers. OSHA standards mandate that all excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against collapse. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.
One serious violation was issued after a competent person found evidence of potential cave-in hazards and failed to remove employees from the hazardous conditions. A serious violation occurs 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.
OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law and focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations. Under the program, OSHA may inspect any of the employer's facilities or job sites.
Pan-Oceanic Engineering Co. has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.