Contractor Cited for Trenching Hazards

December 20, 2013

OSHA cited Jones Utility and Contracting Co. for three repeat and one serious safety violation following an inspection at a job site in Birmingham, Ala. Based in Birmingham, Jones Utility and Contracting Co. Inc. excavates, installs, maintains and repairs utility lines. Proposed penalties total $68,530.

OSHA initiated the July inspection as part of its national emphasis program on trenching and excavation. 

The repeat violations, with $64,680 in penalties, involve failing to provide workers a safe means to enter and exit a trench; provide cave-in protection for workers in a trench greater than 5 feet deep; and for allowing workers to operate in a trench containing a known cave-in hazard. A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. The company received citations for similar violations in 2010 and 2012.

"A trench without cave-in protection can collapse and bury workers beneath tons of soil and debris before they have a chance to react or escape," said Ramona Morris, OSHA's area director in Birmingham. "The employer was aware of OSHA's safety standards with regard to excavation and trenching, but chose to put lives at risk by allowing work to continue inside an unprotected trench."

The serious safety violation, with $3,850 in penalties, involves failing to train workers to recognize and avoid hazards within a trench. 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 standards mandate that all excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against collapse.  The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request a conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.