The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited Gulf Coast Utility Contractors LLC with two willful and two serious safety violations for exposing workers to hazards while installing underground utilities in Panama City Beach, Fla. Proposed penalties total $106,400.
Two separate inspections—one in December 2012 and another in February 2013—revealed trenching hazards at the project in two different areas.
Two willful violations, with $98,000 in proposed penalties, involve failing to provide workers with protection against cave-in hazards while working in a trench greater than 5 feet in depth. 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.
Two serious violations, with penalties totaling $8,400, were cited because the employer failed to provide hard hats or a ladder to workers entering and exiting the excavation, thus exposing them to struck-by and fall hazards. 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 is aware of OSHA's standards regarding excavation and trenching, but put its employees' lives at risk, causing them to work in an unprotected trench," said Jeff Romeo, acting director of OSHA's Jacksonville Area Office. "Risking the safety of workers is an irresponsible business decision."
OSHA standards mandate that all excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against collapse.