Vallencourt Construction Co. Inc. of Middleburg, Fla., knowingly endangered employees at a residential construction site by allowing them to work in an unprotected excavation in St. Augustine, Fla. Following a June 2014 inspection, OSHA cited Vallencourt for two willful and five serious safety violations. Proposed penalties total $169,000.
"Vallencourt's on-site managers saw workers in an unprotected excavation and knew the employees had not followed proper safety procedures, but they failed to take action to protect the workers," said Brian Sturtecky, director of OSHA's Jacksonville Area Office. "An employer that willfully disregards safety procedures puts workers at risk of being killed or seriously injured. OSHA standards exist to save lives."
OSHA issued the willful citations, with $140,000 in penalties, to the employer for allowing employees to work in an excavation without cave-in protection and failing to ensure soil and rocks were 2 feet from the excavation's edge to prevent these materials from falling in and injuring workers. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirement, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.
The serious violations, with $29,000 in penalties, were issued for failure to conduct inspections on equipment used to lift construction materials, such as slings hooks and cables; remove damaged lifting equipment from service; and use lifting equipment in a manner not intended by the manufacturer. 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.
This employer was previously inspected by OSHA in 2007 and received six serious citations related to excavation hazards.
OSHA standards require that all trenches and excavation sites 5 feet or deeper be protected against sidewall collapses. Protection may be provided through shoring of trench walls, sloping of the soil at a shallow angle or by using a protective trench box. OSHA has created a National Emphasis Program on Trenching and Excavation.
Vallencourt Construction is a construction company specializing in land clearing, water and sewer installation, and paving. The company has 15 business days from receipt of its 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.